NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — Sucking the thumb is a very common habit for infants and young kids, but there are lasting effects on tongue posture and health.

According to a news release from tongue-training appliance company Spot Pal, infants usually suck their thumbs until six to seven months old, as according to the Mayo Clinic, this is around the age that the sucking reflex subsides.

However, if a child continues to suck their thumb through the toddler years, the risk and likelihood of developmental consequences throughout the growth process increases.

The habit can change the shape of the mouth, the height and shape of the top of the mouth (hard palate), how much space there is inside the nose for breathing, the size, shape, and appearance of the tongue, and how teeth grow in and how a smile looks. The habit can also create a tongue thrust swallow, cause speech issues, and cause changes to the structure of the face.

Thankfully, there are a few solutions for those seeking to help their child get over the habit. Here are a few suggestions from Spot Pal to sock it to their thumb-sucking urges.

  • Create Awareness by talking to the child about why it’s important to stop thumb-sucking — but make sure they understand that the habit can impact how the face grows, how facial muscles develop, and what their mouth and smile will look like.
  • Provide Positive Reinforcement by offering praise when the child refrains from the act. It can help motivate them to break the habit.
  • Involve the Child in breaking the habit by making them an active participant in the process, and asking them for ideas on how they can stop the habit.
  • Use a Reward Chart where the child can mark the days they successfully did not suck on the thumb, and then offer rewards for consistent progress.

To learn more about stopping your child’s thumb-sucking habit, visit this page on Spot Pal’s website.