Friday, October 23, 2009

Thumbsucking and Pacifiers


8 Total Votes
1 year 3 37%
18 months 4 50%
2 years 1 12%
3 years or older 0 0%

This is a touchy subject for me since my husband and I have been working very vigilantly for the last 3-4 months on getting our daughter who is 3 years old to stop sucking her thumb. I can't say we have the answers because we are still working on it but I can tell you what we have done and what hasn't worked.
First, the difference between pacifiers and thumb sucking is such a different thing. We have had one out of three children suck a Binky. The thing I didn't like about Binky is it seems like we were always trying to find Binky's in the middle of the night, or in the middle of church. It could be stressful. But weaning from the Binky was so much easier then weaning from the thumb sucking.
Thumb sucking was so nice when they were babies. All my thumb suckers were great sleepers. Went to sleep on their own at a very early age. But when they get older, it is very hard to break the habit. The thing we have learned so far is it's so much easier to break the habit when they are younger. We started working with our first thumb sucker when he turned two years old. We just put socks on his hands and would check on him during naps and at night to see if the socks were still on. When he learned to take the socks off we used the Carter one piece PJ's with socks underneath and ducked taped his socked hands. It took a couple weeks and he completely stopped. Yes it was hard for us to explain to a two year old who didn't really understand but it worked without too much drama. We didn't start working with our daughter until she was three.
We started with THUM polish you paint on their finger nails. Totally didn't work. Then we tried Thumb Guard. Our niece used this and learned to stop sucking her thumb. These are a soft plastic guard that are attached by disposable bracelets that lock on to prevent thumb sucking. Sometimes if we didn't put the guard on tight enough she could get her thumb out and still suck on it. The first month we tried it we didn't take off the guards everyday. Her thumbs got so red and sore. So the second month we learned to put the guards on at nap time and then we took them off in the morning. This helped keep her thumbs healthier but she still had really dried out thumbs. After we ran out of bracelets the second time (the replacement bracelets were really pricey) we thought she was done and were way excited. A week later she started sucking her thumbs when she went to bed. I was so discouraged.
We have finally found something that is working. We put a band aid on each thumb when she is going to bed and we tell her that when she wakes up if she still has the band aids on she gets in the treat basket. She loves it. She has gone at least a week of keeping the band aids on. After she gets her treat we take off the band aids and wash her hands so they stay healthy. The key here is she wants to keep the band aids on so it's her decision. Also we have to be committed to remembering to put the band aids on and reinforcing the behavior of not sucking her thumb. I also think the thumb guards helped initially break the habit and the band aids are now just a reminder to her.
We really have been working on this since her third birthday in June. You decide what is more painful for the child. It's a hard call. We have an 18 month that we are deciding now what to do. I think were going to go for starting younger. What if parents don't intervene? Will a child just stop on their own? I haven't known any adults who still suck their thumb, at least I haven't noticed Devin doing it at night. =) Just kidding.


  1. I sucked my thumb till I was seven or eight. I asked my mom what she did to help me stop and she said "nothing". Apparently I quit on my own. As I remember I was embarrased. I must have been made fun of or something. Alas, Danika hasn't yet and so we have started something new with her. We bought a thumbuster (sorta like the contraption you were talking about) although it's just attached with velcro. It could easily be taken off. With all my kids it seems like something triggers the thumb sucking. It's their blankets. We started taking Danika's blanket for four days and then she would get it back for one night. Then for five days and so on. So far so good. I like your idea about the bandaid and treat. We could use the thumbuster that same way since she could take it off or leave it on by choice. I'm not really worried as it's only to go to sleep at night. She never sucks it during the day. The nice thing is that she is the one that said she wanted help to stop.

  2. Ok this makes me so grateful that both my girls didn't like binkies or their thumbs!!

    vanessa from

  3. Christin Francom Shumway commented on your post through facebook:

    "I actually know a lady, 38 years old, who is married with kids, who still sucks her thumb and twists her hair. Kinda sad, but apparently it can go into adulthood.

    God made kids resilient, ever-trusting and forgiving for a reason: they look to us for the long-term perspective they lack, and know that any confusing or painful/constricting situations we place them in are ultimately fueled by love and concern for their well-being. (WE need to be more that way with Our Father, don't ya think?)

    I always look to the example of carseats and immunizations when I begin second-guessing if hands-on parenting is cruel... (Carseats taught me a lot about getting a child to hold still in Sacrament Meeting, began with the question, "why doesn't my 18-month-old cry, kick and scream every time I put him in his restrainer in the car, but on my lap here, where he has to hold just as still, he does?...The answer to my problems was simply the word "consistency", which was a very far-reaching answer, and solution).

    By all means, intervene! They'll love you for it (even if they don't thank you till they're 40...) There's my 2-cents. :)"


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