Question: At what age should thumb sucking, sippy cups, bottles etc. be discouraged/discontinued (i.e., when do they become what you call “prolonged”?) Thank you. A
Hi A, You asked about thumb sucking, sippy cups, bottles, etc. I consider every situation as unique and I individualize accordingly. For example, I have seen babies that are born premature; have difficulty sucking a bottle, etc. In that case, I might actually prescribe the development of a sucking habit….it would be life-saving for that child to learn to suck. So, each case is different. Let me ask a few questions that might help me give more precise suggestions. Is this regarding your own child? Do you have any background in speech therapy or other area of medicine or education? How old is the child? Are there any other areas of concern regarding learning, physical limitations, eating problems? Is there any history that might be important to know? If I were to speak generally (and I really mean….just generally), sucking habits beyond the age of three seem to do more damage to the teeth and bony structure, increase the likelihood of mouth breathing, speech misarticulations, and other concerns. HOW a child quits, however, is very important. I’d rather deal with malocclusions later than to cause emotional problems now. If the child is a mature four or five year old, your might be able to utilize Unplugging The Thumb or find an orofacial myologist near you able to implement Unplugging the Thumb to eliminate that sucking habit. As for Sippy Cups, I teach speech therapists all around the country, and quite often they report to me their suspicion that Sippy Cups are culprits in creating “tongue thrust.” If you visualize a child going from a bottle to a Sippy Cup, still using the infantile sucking pattern, often still leaning backward as in a bottle sucking position, and still placing the tongue under an object while drinking (the hard protruding spout), then it does make sense that it would maintain that infantile method of drinking, likely creating an incorrect tongue rest posture and incorrect drinking location for the tongue. As for bottles, bear in mind that the bottle nipple is always larger and firmer than the natural breast nipple (unless the mother’s breasts are engorged, of course). Therefore, the sooner a baby can be weaned in a gentle way to a cup, the better…in my humble opinion! Also, I believe that the Sippy-type cups with straws might be a better bet since the straws are smaller than cup spouts, softer than the spouts, and require a more normal sucking/suctioning action. There is a video on this topic that will be helpful to you at this following link: https://orofacialmyology.com/myo-media/ I hope this has been helpful to you, Amy. I look forward to hearing back.