Thumb sucking doesn’t suck

Babies eat because it feels good, fundamentally. Babies learn to crawl, walk and talk – most efficiently so, as you will see if you compare it to how we do as adults – because it feels good. And babies suck their thumb because it feels good. Babies and small children will just willingly do whatever feels good to them, and not the opposite. Doing what feels good is the surest way to healthy development; evolution would have hardly had it any other way.

So why does sucking their thumb feel good at that stage? It is already known that thumb sucking is associated with “pleasantly soothing experiences” ( and that it is a reflex. Anything that is a reflex is bouncy, is a release of tension, and is, again, good. On the other hand, it is also no medical mystery that the eating and breathing mechanisms share nervous pathways – kind of important to avoid choking.

Stimulating the sucking reflex is extremely important in keeping the right muscle tone (understood as disposition for efficient contraction) in the mouth to allow for both good eating and breathing.

Good breathing. That is the simple answer small children like to suck their thumb, a dummy or pacifier. And if they like to continue that into an age when it starts to conflict with teeth development there is only one simple reason – again, in the light that evolution could not have evolved a creature fond of messing up their own incisors: they are having trouble breathing. (This means they are also having trouble eating, if only because most parents will force them or otherwise override their habits, but that is a subject for another article.)

Breathing is a full-body action. Your child is having trouble breathing because his whole coordination, and natural muscle tone, is being interfered with.

Who is interfering with it? Whoever orders the child to do anything against his will and natural reflexes and reactions; which means parents for the most part.

Please be aware of this. Do not interfere with your child’s natural progress, respect the way that he is trying to deal with your interference – thumb sucking, among others – and stay tuned to for more about this very interesting, and not very popular, subject.

And why is it not popular? You might ask.

Apparently, some 12% of British adults still suck their thumbs, and also apparently it should be “kicked in early years”… But the only thing that should be kicked is the myriad of excuses for parental domination that take the form of “caring” for the child, of which “teeth problems” is only one. There is only one problem the child has, and that is the parents’ unwillingness to question the morality of their own practices and include themselves in any rational research of the situation.


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