Did you know that every little action and sound your baby makes has a meaning behind it? In other words, when your baby sucks on fingers, there are logical reasons why.
You will find out the most common reasons why your baby sucks on fingers, when it might signal something is wrong, and what to do in that type of situation.
Reasons why baby sucks on fingers their own and yours
The reasons why baby sucks on fingers relate to the wants and needs as well as to the stage of development. Babies who are just a few weeks to a few months old might start sucking on their fingers for the following reason:
- Hunger: This is more prevalent with newborns. When they get hungry, they start gnawing on fists and fingers before turning their head toward you when being held.
- Comfort: Sucking on hands or fingers is natural instinct that’s connected with self-soothing. Plus sucking, in general, is a reflex reaction to outside stimuli as well as to hunger.
As babies get older, and they start to master the art of grasping objects, you’ll notice that they might grab your finger more often to suck on when needing comfort. Again, this is a reflex reaction, but be careful not to allow your baby to become too dependent on your finger as a pacifier. In this situation, you might try breastfeeding instead of relying on anything else.
[ Read : The Truth about Baby Sucking on Bottom Lip ]
Sucking fingers versus sucking thumbs only
As previously mentioned, sucking is a natural response in babies. In general, this sucking reflex decreases at 6 months with the exception of teething (source).
Speaking of teething, your baby might start as early as 3 months; although the front teeth take a while to cut through the gum. In this case, what might resemble sucking is actually more of a massaging of the gums. And there are ways to provide relief for your baby.
However, in the case of sucking the thumb, you would need to keep a close watch in the event that your baby continues this behavior into the toddler years. Then, you’ll need to take steps to stop this habit before it has a lasting effect on the formation of the teeth (source).
Effects on Teeth and Jaw
When your baby sucks fingers during the first 2 to 3 months of life, there’s very little reason to worry. If you breastfeed your baby, and he or she perceives feeding time as very comforting, then you really don’t have to worry about any adverse effects on teeth later on.
If you’re taking the proper hygiene measures to care for your baby’s gums, then your little one’s teeth are going to be just fine.
However, if the sucking of a thumb or all fingers becomes a habit, and/or a pacifier is introduced to curb this behavior, then you might need to seek an alternative. The effects that prolonged sucking can cause:
- Malocclusion or crooked teeth
- Speech problems, specifically for children who suck their thumbs beyond the age of 3
If the habitual sucking becomes a problem and goes on longer than it should, then you might need to look at different options (source). Of course, this probably pertains more to the thumb-sucking since that behavior runs a higher risk of turning into a childhood habit.
Some possible options are:
- Allowing the sucking during the early months: Breastfeeding is the best option. Allowing your baby to suck on your finger (less risk of becoming a habit) comes in a close second.
- Trying other soothing alternatives such as cuddling, massaging the baby’s back, singing, and playing games.
- Maintaining stability and order: Babies feel the safest when routines, like bedtimes, are established. This is not to say that you won’t have deviations from the daily schedule once in a while, but what is most important is how those changes are dealt with.
- Keeping little hands busy: this relates to older babies and toddlers. Sometimes age-appropriate toys provide a distraction from sucking on the fingers.
Solutions for Teething Babies
Aside from the necessity of building up the sucking reflex in the early months, there is one exception that was previously mentioned, and that’s teething. You will notice a difference between the rhythmic sucking reflex and the sporadic massaging of gums.
So don’t be alarmed if your baby chews on his or her fingers followed by excessive drooling. This child could be teething and not just simply sucking on the fingers or thumb.
There are some products that help with teething pain and discomfort, these include:
- The Nuby IcyBite Hard/Soft Keys : this teething toy is made from durable silicone material that cools your baby’s gums after it has been kept in the refrigerator. The easy-to-grip handles and objects make this ideal even for 3 month old.
- Bright Starts Lots of Links : the texture of this toy provides relief for your baby’s gums while also offering both visual and tactile stimuli. The links will also attach to a carrier and stroller.
These types of toys or similar teething rings serve well in providing both teething relief and a means of learning. A combination of visual and tactile stimuli helps to redirect attention away from the sucking over time.
So remember that baby sucking on fingers is quite normal, but at the same time, you can look out for signs that this behavior might become a habit, particularly going more into the toddler years.
All in all, keep in mind the following tips if your child is getting a bit too old to be sucking on fingers or thumb:
- Provide a comforting alternative to sucking.
- Maintain such a home environment that enables the child to learn other ways to cope as he or she grows up.
- Don’t mistake teething for sucking, and make sure to provide relief.
- Consult with your doctor or dentist in relation to concerns about this behavior.
Soon enough, you’ll see a difference in habits as your baby learns to interact with his or her surroundings.