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Protecting All Children's Teeth (PACT): A Pediatric Oral Health Training Program
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Nonnutritive Sucking
Sucking is a normal baby reflex, beginning around the 29th week of gestation.
Nonnutritive Sucking: Sucking not relating to or providing nutrition.

Almost 100% of normal babies engage in nonnutritive sucking.

Babies may suck their thumb, fingers, hand, a pacifier, or other inanimate object such as a blanket or toy.

Nonnutritive sucking has several benefits.

  • It is an early step in an infant's ability to self regulate emotions
  • It helps the child to relax and focus his or her attention
  • It provides comfort and security. Sucking tends to occur more often when the child is tired, bored, anxious, or upset.

Although most children discontinue nonnutritive sucking between 2 and 4 years of age, more than 20% still engage in the habit at age 3.

Pacifier users typically discontinue nonnutritive sucking earlier than thumb suckers.

Older children who are thumb suckers are often motivated to quit by peer pressure at school.

Fast Facts
Nearly 100% of normal babies engage in nonnutritive sucking.
Most children discontinue their sucking habit between the ages of 2 and 4 years.
Thumb suckers usually continue the habit longer than pacifier users.
First-born children are more likely to have a prolonged sucking habit.
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