How to Stop Thumbsucking


The topic of thumb-sucking during infancy has previously been discussed. Within the article, the habit was deemed to be safe and a natural way of self-soothing during infancy. In fact, at a young age, thumb sucking does not provoke any adverse outcomes! But… What happens when this habit goes on too long? Surely no one wants their baby to prolong this habit and harm their dentition and possibly cause a lisp in their speech. Below is a discussion of how to wean your toddler off the thumb.

If you missed the thumb-sucking post, follow this link to catch up: Baby Thumb Sucking

Here are some tips into weaning your child off of the thumb.

  1. Distract and Substitute: Whenever you see your child’s thumb going towards their mouth, try to occupy that hand. For example, hand them a toy that they need to grasp with both hands to keep them busy.
  2. Play a Game: Instead of sucking their thumb, instruct your child to do something with it whenever they get the urge. Trying to hide the thumb by instructing them to wrap their other fingers around it. Wrapping the other fingers around the thumb can quickly become a game and distract them away from sucking. You can also tell your child to squeeze their thumb instead of sucking it.
  3. Triggers: Try to eliminate the triggers that cause thumb sucking. Does your baby suck when they are tired, upset, or bored? If you can eliminate these types of situations, chances are you can drastically cut down on the thumb-sucking behavior.
  4. Show and Tell: Try to show your child what their teeth may look like in a mirror by jutting out your bottom jaw and showing them how they could potentially develop “bugs bunny teeth”. If you talk with them about how they may get disfigured, this can serve as motivation to quit the habit. Also compare them to characters in shows they may be able to relate to, “Do you think Bob the Builder would suck his thumb?”.
  5. Remove the Thumb at Night: Occupy your child’s hands at bed time so that they do not soothe themselves to sleep. Generally if they go to bed sucking their thumb, the child will wake up doing the same thing. Try introducing a stuffed animal for them to wrap their arms around so that they cannot have access to their thumbs. Try putting them to bed with a book or a toy, or introducing lullaby music to soothe them rather than putting them to bed in silence. If this option does not fully work, you can try to allow thumb sucking for an allotted amount of time prior to bed and then try to cut the habit off. This can be a harder method to try, but some children succeed well with the scheduled cessation method.
  6. Encouragement: Do not yell at your child for sucking their thumb, but rather praise them and tell them how great they are doing when not sucking on it! Make sure that they are aware that they are sucking their thumb.
  7. Talk: Speak with your child about quitting and try to aid them in deciding to quit for themselves. When your child makes the decision on their own, they feel a sense of empowerment and pride as they begin to conquer their habit. When they feel as if they are being forced to quit, they do not feel as good about their accomplishment. Do not just out right forbid them to suck their thumb, especially in times of crisis such as when they are in pain, as this can be traumatizing.
  8. Sprays: Do not use chemical sprays to deter your child from sucking their thumb. This is a traumatic way of quitting. These products are easily attainable but do not allow the children to make their own decision. This is a way that we prevent dogs from eating corn on the cob out of the garbage can, not a way to stop children from a simple habit. If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t let your baby use it.

It is important to have patience when breaking this habit. It takes time and personal effort on your child’s part. Children will eventually grow out of this habit, even if parents find it annoying. Patience is key. These methods should provide a significant amount strategy to begin the cessation process.