Topic | Help Breaking the Thumb-Sucking Habit…

This topic contains 10 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  MamaSnow 6 years, 9 months ago.

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  • MamaSnow

    Perhaps one of you can help me with this:  DD5 has been a thumb-sucker since she was just a baby.  It didn’t worry me too much, especially since it seemed to be on the decline over the past year or so, but now has picked up again with a vengeance.    She is getting old enough now that I am concerned about her continuing to do this regularly.  At the same time, I’m also concerned that this might not be the best time to start working on breaking this habit with her as we have a major transition coming up in January – and we will be in pretty much constant transition for the next year (we are missionaries heading back to the States for furlough – and will travel a lot within the US once we get there.)

    Any advice you might be able to offer?  Any tips/tricks that worked for helping a child quit sucking their thumb?  Should I wait it out a while longer and see if it goes away on its own, and maybe work on it next year after our lives settle down a bit again?



    You can try putting a thin glove on that hand so it isn’t so nice to suck and talk to her about not taking the glove off.  Tell her that the germs on her thumb go straight in her mouth when she sucks on it and will make her sick.

    You can also get something called THUM (you might have to wait until you are back in the states).  It is made with cayenne pepper and is hot when sucked.  You put it on the thumb nail and every time she puts it in her mouth it is hot and deters her from sucking.  I got some for my DD at Wal-Mart.  I had to go and request it from the pharmacy and they had to special order it.  It only cost somewhere around $3.  It worked well at first with my DD.  She sucks her fingers and I had to put it directly on the skin of her fingers so that it would have contact with her tongue.  But being on that part of the fingers it came off easily because you use the fronts of your fingers and it could be sucked off eventually.  I don’t think that would be an issue with putting it on the nail for a thumb sucker.  My cousin’s wife also used it to quit biting her nails.


    Funny thing is that we tried the polish that you put on the thumb that tastes bad.  It didn’t phase my DD.  Almost a year later, I tried putting a very thick band-aid on her thumb and within 5 days she was completely thumb-sucking free.  We did this at the beginning of September and she is still thumb free.  She is 5 too.  It could have been her personality.  Once she is ready to do something… she just does it.


    When I was a little girl, I sucked both thumbs. My mother finally told me there were worms underneath my fingernails and that I could get those worms in my tummy by sucking my thumb. She said I stopped sucking my thumb that day and never put it in my mouth again.

    I wouldn’t tell you to lie to your dd, but I also know that this lie didn’t harm me at all. I don’t remember my mother telling me that. I only found out when I was a teenager. I wasn’t mad at my mom, by any means. And to this day, we still laugh about it. 

    Anyway, I didn’t have thumb-suckers; but that’s something that worked for my mom. LOL



    The reason it is hard to stop thumb sucking with all the negative tools like bitter polish is because thumb sucking is such a comforting thing to a child and they will not want to give it up when you put bitter polish (which has chemicals in it) or shameful thumb guards on. Try the positive approach…there is a fun thing for children called “Thumbuddy To Love” and it comes with a thumb puppet/story book with special tips on how to use it. Teaches kids in a fun and positive way to let go of something so comforting. Worked for my kids. Here is the info: You can get it on Amazon or thumbuddytolove dot com.

    The sooner the better because prolonged thumb sucking can lead to buck teeth.



    We successfully used a product called Control-It. It is a cream that is very bitter and lasts through several hand-washings. My dd9 was a nail biter at < 1 year of age and it broke the habit within a couple of weeks. DS6 & DD3 were both big thumb suckers. It broke ds at 22 months in 1 day and dd at 2.5 years in a couple of weeks.


    My now 7 yr old dd stopped sucking her thumb at 5 and my now 5 1/2 yr old dd at age 4. My 3 yr old dd still sucks hers. 😉 It took circumstances surrounding the thumb to deter them from sucking anymore…

    For my oldest dd she had eczema so bad her thumb was RAW and bloody from her continually having it in her mouth. So one day on a whim, I took a little toy from McD’s (don’t even know what this stuffed animal creature was! lol) and told her his name is Doc. I explained to her her thumb is sick and it’s sad because it’s in her mouth and dries it out. And it’s time now to stop sucking her thumb so that it can heal and not hurt anymore. I said Doc is going to help remind you to keep your thumb out of your mouth. You keep him in your hand all this week when you are playing, watching tv, and sleeping. I said she could even put him up to her mouth at night–most needed time for soothing herself to sleep–so she won’t want to put thumb in there. She did miss it at first and mourned for it, but she said she wanted to stop since her thumb hurt. It helped to have something in her hand to keep reminding her. I think we also rewarded her one week no thumb with ice cream treat. Anyway. she never turned back from day 1!! And she had a BAD habit of sucking her thumb all the time and hair twirling. lol

    So maybe explaining matter-of-factly it is time to stop and why and have something to hold to remind her–give her more control to stop the habit?

    2nd dd had pinworms in the springtime, since she had her thumb in her mouth while playing outside. @@ She itched so bad her drove her nuts. So I explained to her that she got those worms in her bottom from sucking her thumb and they went in her tummy and to her bottom. (SORRY TMI). She never put that thumb in her mouth again! lol

    Good luck!!


    PS My husband tried to negative route with polish, tobasco sauce, and duct tape (To which I never agreed! It made my dd’s just cry and get upset over it). I say positive approach and put them in control of stopping the habit works. It worked wiht nail biting with my now 5 1/2 yr old– treat when nails were grown in a week. And scratching eczema for 7 yr old–bribed with reward if eczema is better in a week from her going on her own to get ice for the itch or ask for cream/vaseline/itch cream for me to put on. Her eczema is now better 2 days later and she looks forward to reward next week!


    I guess Mom was right… I really could’ve gotten worms from sucking my thumb! So glad to know you wouldn’t be lying if you did tell your dd that! ha! 



    At five, I would agree that you would likely be most successful with a positive approach.  Tara’s straightforward approach with a reward sounds like it would work well.

    I was a thumbsucker for a long time, and by the time I was that age the deterrents didn’t work for me. 


    My son is breaking this habit as we speak!  We tried the Mavala polish.  It rubbed off on everything!   We would be eating popcorn during a movie and have to throw the whole bowl away because it tasted like the “yucky.”  Plus, it didn’t stop the habit. 

    This time, though, we have had 4 days without thumb sucking!  The trick for him was:

    -I explained why he needed to stop.  I told him what the dentist had told us about kids who continue to suck their thumb after five.  I told him that we weren’t trying to be mean.  We just wanted his teeth and jaw to develop correctly.  I got him to agree that he needed to stop. 

    -I put a glove on his hand. I told him it wasn’t a punishment, but a reminder.  Many times he is sucking his thumb without thinking about it.  I chose cheap, but cool, gloves from the dollar store.  Spiderman, football, etc.

    -Old-fashinoned bribery!!  I told him that I knew it would be very hard for him to stop.  So, I would like to reward his efforts.  I told him that we would go to Pizza Street after 7 days without his thumb.   (A restaurant I HATE and he LOVES!)  We are on Day Four without his thumb!  

    -Lots of positive reinforcement! I praise him for not sucking his thumb when he normally would.  (in the car, watching tv, in bed at night)  I remind him how many days until Pizza Street. 

    Good luck!




    Just wanted to pop in with a little update – I do so appreciate all the ideas!  I figured that a more positive “let me work with you on this” approach would probably be the best direction to take with this particular child.  We had a little chat about how she is getting to be a big girl now (and talked about a lot of things that she can do that are big girl things), and how big girls don’t suck their thumbs any more.  I also let her pick a little finger puppet out of our collection to be her special thing to hold on to “to help her remember not to put her thumb in her mouth”.  When I catch her forgetting, all I need to say is “do you need to go find your monkey?”  And overall, while we haven’t totally reached the goal yet, she is doing much better remembering and being conscious of when she is doing it – which I think is half the battle. 

    Just wanted to give a little update and thank you all for the ideas to get us going in the right direction!

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