Non-nutritive Sucking

Nonnutritive sucking satisfies a psychological need and diminishes with age; most children stop by two to four years of age. Persistent non-nutritive sucking increases the risk of anterior open bite, palatal narrowing, and delayed speech development.

Anticipatory Guidance

  • Intervene to stop habit by 36 months, especially if changes to bite are noted.
  • Offer positive reinforcement, such as a star chart or┬ástickers.
  • Restrict to limited situations (only in bed, naps, stressful times).
  • Cover hands at night with mittens.
  • Provide stuffed animal or other comfort object. In general, pacifier use is preferable to digit sucking as it is less likely to cause a problem and the habit is easier to break (the pacifier can be removed).
  • Recommend never to dip pacifier in honey or other sweetened foods.


Nowak AJ and Warren JJ. Infant oral health and oral habits. Pediatric Clinics of North America 2000;47(5):1043-1066.