Sucking of the digits is the most common oral habit found in children. It is a form of non-nutritive sucking which appears to be influenced by various factors. When the habit becomes prolonged, it can lead to both dental and hand complications. Breastfeeding is one of the factors known to be protective against this habit in children. Therefore, the aim of this study was to find out the prevalence of digital sucking in our environment and the influence of breastfeeding/exclusive breast feeding including various sociodemographic variables on this habit in children in our environment.
This study was a cross sectional, questionnaire-based study administered to one hundred and forty-five caregivers of children aged 0-18 years who attended the children's outpatient clinic of the hospital, consecutively recruited over a period of three months. Data was analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Science(SPSS) version 20.
145 respondents were analysed. The prevalence of digital sucking was 32.4% (95% CI = 0.25-0.41) while the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding was 47.6% (67 out of 144).
Exclusive breastfeeding and digit sucking demonstrated a significant negative association. Children who were exclusively breastfed were less likely to suck their fingers with a significant p-value of 0.025-univariate analysis (OR = 2.28; 95% CI = 1.11-4.70). This finding was sustained on multivariate analysis with children who were exclusively breastfed having approximately a three times reduction in the odds of sucking their finger (p = 0.09; 95% CI). There was no statistically significant difference (p = 0.252; OR = 0.96; 95% CI = 0.89-1.03) between the mean total duration of breastfeeding for children who sucked their fingers compared with their siblings who did not suck their fingers (9.73 ± 4.90 vs. 10.98 ± 5.14 months). A history of both parents sucking had a positive association with digital sucking with a significant p-value of 0.036 (OR = 4.63; 95% CI = 1.11-19.40)-univariate analysis.
Prevalence of digital sucking in this study was 32.4% with children who were exclusively breastfed being less likely to suck their digits when compared to those who were not. Duration of breastfeeding beyond 6 months did not confer any additional advantage. A history of parental sucking was significantly associated with subsequent digital sucking in the children studied.