Thumb Sucking: Breaking the Habit

You know how I told you last week was the “Backwards Edition of Works For Me Wednesday“? Only, in another case of my Half-Heimers acting up again, that was completely wrong? Well, this week is the REAL LIVE “Backwards Edition” where bloggers are asking questions and hoping readers will have answers.

No foolin’ this time! So here’s where I need your advice:

We just took six of the children in for dental check ups and were told that two of them were going to need dental appliances because their bites were malformed due to thumb or finger sucking! I need all your best tips, friends!

We have three thumb or finger suckers, two of which the dentist characterized as “aggressive suckers” which has affected their bites.

So, hit me with your best shot. What are your best tips for breaking the thumb sucking habit?

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Comments

  1. Wish I had some advice, but I'm not seasoned at all in this department. my 10 month old loves to suck her thumb. I guess it's probably nothing more than wishful thinking to hope she just stops on her own at an early age, hm?

    My sister-in-law sucked her fingers until she was 7, I think, and my mother and father in law finally told her that her fingers were starting to be crooked (which they were!) from the sucking and she needed to stop. It scared her enough that it worked. And, her fingers are fine now. :)

  2. UnfinishedMom says:

    I can only tell you what worked for us. My daughter was an avid finger sucker. About 2 months before she turned 3, we told her – You're going to be a big girl when you turned 3 so you can't suck your finger anymore when you turn 3. This was reinforced several times before her birthday. Her birthday came and we reminded her that she couldn't suck her finger anymore. It took about 2 weeks of several reminders, but eventually it worked. (She did have a lovey that she held for bedtime so she wasn't completely deprived of comfort at bedtime.)

    I don't know if this would work for older children, but it worked very well for our daughter.

  3. My mom sucked her thumb until she was thirteen. Her father told her, "If you don't suck your thumb for a whole year I'll take you to Disneyland." This was a big deal for them. They were very poor. And that was motivation enough for her. They made great memories. Sadly, he passed away before her fifteenth birthday.

    yeah, I'm no help. So far Hammy has been the only thumb sucker. But he only sucked his thumb a little and stopped before he was even weaned.

    The twins however love to suck their middle and ring fingers together. And even each others. Not sure what we'll do. I guess I'll come back to read what others say and file it away in case I need it in the future.

  4. Mrs. Mommie Strain says:

    put hot sauce or something else yuky like finger nail polish remover on them.. they wont want to suck them..

  5. I am blessed! says:

    I'm also no help. My 10 yr old daughter still sucks her thumb at night. I have a 3 yr old thumb sucker, too. I sucked my thumb forever. I think I was 10 or 11 when I stopped. I guess I keep thinking she'll just outgrow it. You mean they don't? And sometimes I wonder about those dentists. They sure do prescribe a lot of expensive stuff for little kids these days.

  6. I sucked my thumb until around age 7. I'll have to ask my Mom how they got me to stop. I do still have little marks on my thumbs from where I guess my teeth were. I only needed braces on my 4 front teeth for 6 months and 6 months of a retainer after that. I got them in 4th grade.

  7. I sucked my thumb till I was 8. I have perfectly straight teeth. My sister never sucked her thumb. She has a severe overbite, and needed massive amounts of orthodontic work. The orthodontist tried to blame my sister's problem on thumb sucking. But since she never sucked her thumb, or fingers, or a pacifier, it can not possibly be true.

    So I never worried about it if my kids sucked their thumbs. Only one of my 8 sucked his thumb past four years old. He stopped all by himself at age 8 (like I had). He had to have braces to correct an underbite.

    So take what the orthodontist says with a grain of salt. :)

  8. I don't have any that sucked their thumbs, but we had two pacifier kids, which is totally different to break them of (and easier, I think). But I came across a blog just the other day, and I don't remember whose it was, but the mom said she made her daughter wear a glove as a reminder not to suck her fingers. I think the girl was around 8 or 9. She said it took about a month but broke her of the habit. It does sound like it would work with an older child.

    I don't agree with putting a substance on the fingers because that is like punishing them for a self-comfort measure. NOT NICE. (But I did cut the tip off of my son's pacifier when he turned 2!)

  9. I asked my sister about the thumb sucking and she said they used Thum liquid. I do remember them using it to try to get me to stop biting my nails, but the only thing I remember is that it made finger foods taste bad. Oh and I still bit my nails!

  10. Anonymous says:

    We've done a similar thing to what happened to Nikki's Mum – promised a reward for breaking the habit. Our daughter was 9, so she needed to be motivated to break the habit herself :-) We let her pick the reward…
    Sandy.

  11. Well, I sucked my thumb until I was 7. My mom remembers trying everything to get me to stop (and I, shame on me, remember being equally determined to foil her and continue in my soggy-thumbed ways)…hot sauce, band-aids, rewards, etc. My teeth were getting horribly messed up (my bite took years to correct…couldn't bite an apple for a loooong time). Mom took me to my pediatrician, he looked me in the eye and told me stop. And I did. (stinker!)
    So it might be as simple as that. Just sit the older ones down and explain the situation to them. They might just stop!
    And if you had explained and reminded often enough and they still weren't obeying, you might consider correcting for it?

  12. We have had 2 very avid thumb suckers in our family. They also had "lovies" too (blankets) in both instances the blankets were misplaced (not on purpose) and it broke the habit. So if they have blankies maybe there is a correlation??? We also tried the "Thumb medicine" stuff but it didn't really work for us. Hope you find a suitable answer.

  13. My brother sucked his thumb for a long time, probably till he was around 8. Unfortunatly, as I'm finally able to admit to myself, my mother wasn't the most encouraging woman. She went the punishment route, and although he dosen't suck his thumb anymore, he also has no self confidence and believes he really is a 'baby' 5 years on.

    But as for the dentist, take it with a grain of salt. There are far more children wearing braces today than there were 20 years ago, it's almost manditory! As far as I know, my brothers teeth are fine, however I never sucked thumb or pacifier and have a serious overbite and forward slanting top teeth. I also have a friend who only gave up thumb sucking at night when he was 19! His teeth are, to my knowlege, pretty good, he's never had braces at any rate.

    Having said that, my brothers thumb did begin to become deformed, with the skin getting icky and the thumb being smaller and strangly shaped, so if you're having those sorts of troubles then it can be a problem.

    I would agree that for an older child, talking to them seriously about it, and then having some sort of reminder that they agree with and understand can be a good approch.

  14. This is a really difficult one. Their fingers or thumbs or whatever are comfort items. My children never did this but I remember my brother and all the things that my parents tried to get him to stop. Nothing worked until he was ready more of a peer pressure thing. To this day, as an adult, he still sleeps with his thumb nearby. Good luck to you. I personally would just let it ride they won't get married sucking their thumbs. The only other option is maybe limit it to bed.

  15. Anonymous says:

    My daughter was 7 and had all 4 of her front permanent teeth. They were starting to stick of her mouth because of her thumb sucking. We already had the rule that the blankie she sucked her thumb with had to stay in her bed when she turned 4. But, she was still doing it at night, often unconsciously. We took a pair of old thing gloves and cut all but the thumb piece off. So she had thumb gloves that would remind her in the middle of the night, not to suck her thumb. It worked for us.

  16. I had two thumb-suckers…one of which is 4, who we are encouraging to stop, and the other is 6-mos, so we aren't worried about her yet (although we truly hoped she'd prefer a pacifier since we can't throw away her thumb!). We tried to get him to stop when she was born, when he turned 4, as a competition against a preschool friend who also needs to stop (according to his mom), but so far nothing. We've threatened the thumb medicine, which he doesn't want to do, but I'm afraid that he will bother him to eat finger foods (as someone else mentioned). I really like the glove idea and may try that. Of course, we could then just end up with very cold hands from being in wet gloves! We'll see!

    Thanks for asking this one!

  17. Dana~Are We There Yet? says:

    Hey Connie!

    My cousin and his wife have an "agressive" sucker. She sucked so hard she got sores on her thumbs. Kim tried everything she could find with no success. Then she got to work inventing the ThumbGlove. Now she sells them to individuals, dentists and speech therapists. Check 'em out at http://www.kduncandesigns and see what you think.

    Lotsa luck!

  18. Dana~Are We There Yet? says:

    Of course I meant to type

    http://www.kduncandesigns.com

    okay…time to slop my little hoggies!

  19. Anonymous says:

    My daughter sucked her fingers for years and the orthodontist said that it was NOT the cause of her teeth problems! I sucked my thumb for years and my teeth were never a problem. How wonderful that they have something that soothes them. Don't listen to that dentist and find another one!!!

  20. That's a tough one. I used to babysit a girl who sucked her thumb. It wpuld crack and bleed in the winter, but that did't stop her.

    Cover it with tape or band-aids?
    Splint their hand at night? (for the older ones…but that sounds mean)

  21. I sucked my index finger for an embarrassingly long time. I didn't like that I did it, and wanted to stop. *warning: I'm sure this is not a recommended method* I taped my finger with scotch tape. I would curl it inside my mouth so that the whole finger was in there when I sucked. To stop I tapped it straight. I did it several nights in a row until I decided I was finished! I don't remember how old I was, but I remember being worried about every sleep over. FWIW my teeth are fine and I've never had braces. I still bite my nails though. Can we work on that next? :)

  22. I have one thumb sucker too and I have enjoyed reading everyones ideas.

    My Mom was a thumb sucker and she said that her parents told her that Santa would not bring her a new tricycle if she did not quit sucking her thumb. She has an overbite and believes it is from sucking her thumb. She is very worried about my son.

    My dentist on the other hand is not worried about my son's thumb sucking. He says he will stop when he gets embarressed about it. Our problem is that his cousin who is a year older than him still sucks his thumb too.

    My sister in law says that their dentist is not worried about the thumb sucking either.

  23. My 3 year old sucks and chews on her fingers and/or whole hand every time she gets upset. Which is 24-7. My kids are like night and day. My daughter cries all the time about any and everything and my son is always laughing and happy even right after getting hurt! So when you get the magical cure down let me know! For now I just take her out out of her mouth every time I see her doing it. It seems to be getting better. Sometimes I just give her the mom look and she takes her hand out of her mouth and sits on it instead! Hopefully she will grow out of it earlier than her daddy did. Hubby said he thumb sucked until he was like 7 or 8 and had sores from it. I can't remember for sure but I think his mom put tape on it to get him to stop.

  24. i feel your pain on this one and wish i had the cure all but they way i got my daughter to stop wasnt me at all, she got very sick and had to go on breathing treatments for 3 days and afterwards, no thumb sucking, i was shocked!

    my friend who is an orthodontist said to put pop-cycle sticks on the hands at night or gloves. seems like you could poke an eye out but she says it works with a lot of her patients.

  25. Bonnie Baker says:

    My oldest sucked her thumb until we had the appliance put in when she was 4. She stopped sucking the day it went in. I would say just get the appliance, mine needed it to expand her palate (visually we couldnt even tell, her teeth looked straight to us) she is now 11 and has beautiful teeth. She wears braces but not to straighten her teeth, it is to straighten out a misaligned jaw.

  26. My daughter has struggled with this very same thing and, in trying to find a solution, I discovered this little tidbit. If the child wants to stop, but puts fingers in her mouth while drowsy or sleeping, it was suggested that you use an Ace bandage wrapped loosely, but securely, around the elbow of the offending arm so that the thumb cannot be held in the mouth without intent. My daughter didn't want to stop so this didn't work out for us. We just found elastic bandages all over the floor and bed the next morning. Hope you find the answer that you're looking for!

  27. My niece had the appliance and it was no big deal. It was trickier to brush, and I know that some people use electric toothbrushes because it does help to get the teeth cleaner than a regular one. It may also help to solve (2 of) your toothbrush problems!

    As for the appliance, I know that many are installed and aren't removable, but I wear a bruxism appliance to help me stop griding my teeth at night (love it!) and my two tips for you if the appliances are the in-and-out kind would be:
    *Don't put it boiling water, no matter how sick you have been and no matter how badly you want to kill germs. It will warp it a bit. Or a lot. Yes, I learned from experience.
    *Use denture cleaning tablets, not the expensive appliance cleaning tablets.

  28. Personally, I see thumb and finger sucking as a self comforting habit, and don't believe in punitive measures for it. I sucked my thumb till age 9 and never needed braces. Our son sucked his thumb till about 6 yrs old and is the only one of our children who didn't need braces!
    I asked my dentist about thumbsucking and he poo-poo'd it as a cause for orthodontia, said genetics is the cause 99% of the time.
    However, that being said, I think that the same special treat that broke me of nail biting might work for girls who suck their thumbs.
    When I had gone 2 weeks without biting my nails, I got to have a professional manicure (complete with hand and forearm massage) and painted fingernails (something previous linked to turning age 13 in our family).

  29. Anonymous says:

    One of my friends daughter had this problem. It occurred mainly at night, so she designed a cover for the finger she sucked out of fabric and velcro and insisted she wear it at night. When she went to suck her finger and the fabric was there it wasn't appealing. I don't know how she designed it, but it worked

  30. Jane Koble says:

    We had an agressive thumb sucker until 1st grade. She was good about stopping during the day (finally), but did it at night without knowing it. We did the orthodontist thing and he installed a "bluegrass" device, which was step one in correcting the damage it did to the roof of her mouth and get her to stop sucking her thumb, or just making that sucking motion at night. After NINE months of that device, he then installed a regular device that we had to turn to reshape her palate. Her teeth are GREAT now, but we're probably looking at braces in late elementary. I HIGHLY recommend the bluegrass device EARLY. It works, it's not too expensive, and early intervention is the best before the real damage sets in and kids start REALLY noticing the device in her mouth.

  31. Hi,
    I thought my son was going to suck his thumb until he was a grown-up!
    We tried everything…then we told him if we caught him sucking his thumb anytime during the day, he wouldn't get any dessert! It WORKED! (Sometimes we don't even eat dessert, but he doesn't remember and has now stopped that yechhy habit!

  32. Try Thumbuddy To Love…it is for 3-6 year old thumb suckers. You can get it on Amazon or on thier website….

  33. i had 2 thumb suckers and i told both of them when they wanted to suck, tap their laps in a rythem and the one with the best rythom would get a reward of their favorite thing. i hope this works for you too

  34. As the parent of a child who really loved sucking his thumb, I know how hard it is for some kids to stop – even when they want to.

    When my son was 7, our orthodontist told us that he was going to need an expander within the year and had to stop sucking his thumb before it could go on. I wasn’t willing to make my son suffer with any of the products on the market used to MAKE kids stop thumb sucking: plastic sheathes, neoprene thumb sleeves and bitter tasting ointments just to name a few. I also didn’t want him to feel bad about needing to stop sucking his thumb. So we talked about it – a lot. He wanted to stop, he just couldn’t. He would suck his thumb unconsciously during the day and all night in his sleep. First we tried using a regular knit glove, but he would pull it off in the night because his hand would get too hot. I had him sleep in my bed and spent all night pulling his thumb out of his mouth. Clearly, we needed another solution: Thumb-Thing. By eliminating all of the fingers but the thumb, his hand stayed cool and he would wear it all night. During the day he would put it on while we watched a movie or read a book, or anytime he thought he might suck his thumb. I didn’t have to do anything but make sure his Thumb-Things were clean. He never forgot to put it on at night, and instead of feeling bad about himself, he was proud.

    Wishing you and your little one all the best! Please visit us at http://www.thumb-thing.com

  35. As a little girl I sucked my thumb at night until I was in 4th grade and got braces and head gear for my over bite. I also have tongue thrust causing the over bite. My mom tried a mitten and painting hot stuff on it. I really did want to stop, but it would just go into my mouth when I was asleep. I did have lots of orthodontic work from 4th grade up until my senior year of high school, due to my tongue thrust situation, which I read can be caused by thumb sucking. At 59 years of age it doesn’t look like I had braces as my two front teeth still protrude a bit due to the problem.

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