Thumb sucking is a natural soothing method for babies and young children, but it can also be a difficult habit to break. While thumb sucking in the first three years of life is not generally a cause for concern, extensive sucking beyond the age of 4 may lead to dental problems. Ready to break the habit? Try these seven tips from real moms whose children were thumb suckers.
1. Bad-Tasting Products
One commonly recommend way to discourage thumb sucking is by covering the thumb with product that tastes bitter, spicy, or otherwise icky. Moms like Shannon K. found success with drugstore products designed for nail biters: "When my littlin was asleep I put some on both her thumbnails and when she later went to suck her thumb it tasted terrible! I only needed to reapply a few times and it had totally broken the habit."
Covering thumbs with bandages can also deter children from thumb sucking, especially if the bandages are brightly colored or feature a favorite character. Mother-of-four Connie P. recalls: "I found that she did not like the feel of those fabric bandages in her mouth so I just kept a BandAid on it. Within a couple of days you could see her think about it and decide against it."
"If it's during the day, try to distract him with a toy or activity," Tameka P. suggests. Since children often suck their thumbs when bored, providing distractions can help break the habit.
4. Set an End Date
Consider setting a specific date to end thumb sucking. Mother-of-four Tina S. explains: "We did try many different things, like bitters and hot sauce, but he actually liked that. We just picked a date that he would stop sucking his thumb and talked about it with him all the time. We chose his 5th birthday, because then he would be a big boy. It sounds crazy, but that day came and he never sucked him thumb again."
5. Pictures of Germs
Pictures of germs can also deter thumb sucking. Erin B. shares: "We got a book from the library about germs and logged on to several websites that had up close pictures of germs. We told her every time she sucked her thumb she was eating those disgusting germs."
Sara C. agrees: "I even did a Google image search and showed her what a germ looks like...she very rarely sucked her thumb after that."
6. Thumb Guard
If your child's thumb sucking is already negatively impacting her teeth, your dentist may suggest inserting a preventative appliance in her mouth. Angie, a mom and dental hygienist shares: "[An orthodontist] can make an appliance that has a metal piece that prevents the thumb or fingers from going into the mouth. Not too pretty, but it does the trick!."
7. Peer Pressure
Ultimately, comments from other children may convince your thumb sucker to quit. Mother-of-two Jennifer W. shares: "My oldest son sucked his thumb until he was 7. We had tried everything. The thing that finally worked was when his friends at school started giving him a hard time."