What would happen if every time you caught your baby with their fingers in their mouth, you removed their fingers with a firm “No”?

You may be thinking, “Why not just let them have their fun? What’s the harm if they’re sucking on their fingers? Babies like this; let them be!”

The “Eeeuuu!” Factor
From a nonmedical standpoint, there’s the issue of unsightliness. When babies suck or munch on their fingers, invariably this causes saliva to drool out.

When the baby removes her fingers, they glisten with a fresh coat of saliva. This has that “Eeeuuu!” quality to it.

Of course, the solution is not to look if it makes you queasy. However, there’s a second issue: physical contact with the “grossed out” adult (or older child). They won’t want to hold this baby.

I’ll admit, I fell into that category when my niece was four. She frequently had her thumb in her mouth. When it was out it looked raw and wet. Anyone who picked her up risked getting that wet yucky thumb on their skin. “Eeeuuu!”

Gateway to Nail Biting
If babies, toddlers and preschoolers are permitted to suck on their fingers or have their fingers in their mouth in any shape, way or form, this could pave the way to nail biting.

There are no studies that have analyzed the odds of this happening, but one must wonder if all very young nail biters started out with sucking on their fingertips or whole fingers.

It’s easy to imagine that sucking on a digit can then escalate to nibbling at the fingertip and then eventually biting at the nail.

My niece was still sucking her thumb at age seven! My sister-in-law said she had tried everything to stop this habit. I find that hard to believe.

It finally stopped after the girl fell off some monkey bars and broke her arm.

Her baby sister frequently has three fingers in her mouth. I see this all the time with other babies and toddlers in public. The parents do nothing. Meanwhile, there are parents who find this unsightly and will not permit it. Who’s right?

Keep in mind that if the parents do nothing, the habit can actually persist. It’s not necessarily outgrown.

Don’t you know ADULTS who seem to always have a finger in their mouth? Some suck, some nibble, and sometimes the finger is just sitting inside their oral cavity or against their teeth – even while these adults are speaking to others.

Maybe they picked this unsightly habit up later in life, but you have to wonder if it goes way back to babyhood or early childhood!

The New York State Dental Journal has a report titled, “When children put their fingers in their mouths. Should parents and dentists care?”

“We have heard mothers tell their children not to stick their fingers in their mouths because they will get sick,” states the report’s abstract. “Medical and dental professionals know this is true. Oral habits like thumb sucking and nail biting can damage the structure of the mouth and can lead to the spread of infectious diseases.”

How many babies, toddlers and preschoolers develop serious infections resulting from finger sucking and nail biting?

Nobody really knows. But even if these habits were not a conduit for spreading bacteria, the unsightliness of it should be reason enough for parents to intervene.

The earlier the better. But many parents, like my brother and sister-in-law, just don’t see it that way. Though it’s impossible for them to catch their baby in the act every single time, a 100 percent catch-rate is not necessary to reinforce disapproval of her finger sucking.

This can certainly be stopped when the baby is at the meal table or when being carried by her parents.

I have to wonder when the older girl would have stopped sucking her thumb had she not broken her arm. She’s 12 now. Hmmm, makes you wonder…

Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9542394