To establish proper habits in our children we have to start young. How young you ask? Ideally even before birth. Oral tissues start forming very early on in pregnancy. At 10 weeks our upper jaw starts forming and the habit of swallowing and sucking starts. Once a baby is born and takes its first breath, the swallowing and sucking action is key to survival and life.
Many things to consider and assess during the first months of life.
- While your baby is awake, are their lips apart? Do they have chronic runny or congested nose?
- While your baby is sleeping, is their mouth open? Do they snore? Can they only sleep upright or when held?
- Are mom or baby having trouble breastfeeding? Is their difficulty achieving a good latch?
Many of these issues can be addressed and once resolved can be a great opportunity to improve the growth, development and function of your child.
Baby teeth start to erupt through the gums between four and nine months of age. Ten upper and ten lower for a total of twenty.
This first set of teeth helps your child eat, speak, and help the adult teeth come in straight. Even tiny teeth must be cleaned. Infants can get cavities just like older children and adults. Following all feedings, you should clean your baby’s mouth and teeth. If the teeth are not large enough for an infant toothbrush, then simply use a piece of gauze or a wet facecloth to wipe teeth and gums. This prepares babies early for what should become a lifelong habit.
Baby’s first visit to the dentist can occur when the first teeth appear. The early visit can help detect any differences from normal growth patterns.
Pacifiers and Thumbsucking: What You Should Know
Thumb sucking is a habit that starts in utero. It trains the fetus to suck and swallow, so at birth they are prepared for breastfeeding. The use of pacifiers and continued thumb sucking habit after 6months, can create problems with your child’s growth and development. Ideally, the tongue should always rest in the roof our mouth. This allows for proper expansion of the upper and jaw and it is the start position for swallowing. The use of a pacifier and continued thumb sucking trains our tongue to be in a low position. In this position the upper jaw is not getting the stimulus it needs to grow and our swallowing habit becomes compromised. We start using our cheek muscles for swallowing rather than our tongue muscle. Therefore, continued pacifier use and thumb sucking can effect proper growth of the mouth and jaws, alter the alignment of the teeth and create changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth. If not treated early, it can lead to skeletal changes in jaw alignment, an open bite of the front teeth and excessive overjet, commonly referred to as an overbite.
Tips for Weaning Kids off the Pacifier or Thumb Sucking
A few tips for how to stop kids from sucking their thumb and for weaning them off the pacifier:
- Never yell at your child for using their pacifier or sucking their thumb. Instead, lavish them with praise when they refrain.
- When deciding to take away something so desired by the child, replace it with something great. This will act as positive reinforcement.
- If stopping cold turkey doesn’t work (this is mostly true for pacifiers), try a gradual approach. Start by taking away the pacifier during happy times, like when the child is playing at home, then start to eliminate it while outside, eventually just keep the pacifier in the crib before phasing it out completely.
- Most kids default to sucking their thumb or pacifier when they’re anxious and need comfort. Find out what’s bothering them and try to remedy the situation. Teaching them a few self-soothing techniques can go a long way as well.
- If they need a pacifier to fall asleep or tend to suck their thumb before bed when they’re tired, try to implement a different bedtime routine that includes things they find calming like reading a bedtime story or taking a bath.
- Most children that have a thumb sucking habit will also have a habit with the off hand (the other hand that isn’t being used during the habit). This may be twirling their hair, nail biting. The off hand habit has to be recognized and addressed so that both can be resolved.
- Who doesn’t love prizes? Set goals with your child. When they achieve the set length of time without sucking their thumb or using a pacifier, give them a reward like letting them choose the next family activity or taking them on a trip to the movies.
- Show your child the thumb of the hand they suck on vs. the other hand. The thumbsucking thumb is always sparkling clean. Show them the difference and explain that all the germs are going in their mouth and body.
If you’re having trouble helping your child break the habits, schedule an appointment with us today. We can teach you ways to stop thumb sucking and get rid of the pacifier to make sure your child’s development is on track