How Do I Help A Child Stop Thumb Sucking?

Thumb sucking is a common behavior among children of ages one to seven. Nonetheless, not all children are likely to fall into this habit. Research indicates that children susceptible to this behavior are a result of their nursing tendencies as kids.

In most cases, like any troublesome behaviour, thumb sucking tends to go away on its own if you ignore it. However, if it’s affecting the child’s teeth, you should find a way to stop the habit.

This article provides several tips that could be useful to help you kick out this habit off your child’s life.

10 Tips to help your child stop sucking thumb

  1. Satisfy their sucking needs

Sucking offers the satisfaction of attachment that a child needs. A fulfilled need is likely to go away, unlike a non-fulfilled need that develops into a habit to gain gratification. Let your child suck to her content during her early stages of childhood.

It is also advisable that you breastfeed on cue rather than on schedule when for the infant. After the baby is well satisfied, you can now allow the non-nutritive sucking using pacifiers, collapsible bottles, fingers etc.

Several studies reveal that children who had their sucking needs satisfied rarely form the thumb sucking habit.

  1. Offer early alternatives to sucking

If your baby has a strong drive to sucking their thumb, you can try alternative methods that will keep them distracted. Activities such as massage, playing animated games, rocking and others.

The earlier the baby finds comfort in other things that can distract them from the thumb, breast, bottle or pacifier, the better the prevention of future oral satisfaction. The child will tend to lean towards the other activities in the future as an alternative to sucking.

  1. Keep life calm

If thumb sucking is a way for your toddler to relax and manage emotions, you can train them with your habits. If they see the things you do to keep you relaxed, they will tend to borrow a leaf.

Such things include music, quiet times, long walks, taking deep breathes. Things that maintain a peaceful atmosphere at home will calm the child that they need not rely on the thumb.

  1. Ensure the thumbs are busy

Most times, children tend to suck their thumbs when bored. Always ensure the child is active and busy to keep the fingers off their mouth. When you see your child’s finger headed towards their mouth, redirect the child to another activity that will keep them engaged.

  1. Recommend an alternative posture

For a child above four years, the principle of a competing habit may apply. Train your child other postures for comfort that can replace thumb sucking.

You can train them postures, such as arm folding or hiding the thumb under the pillow or folding the arms to a fist. When the child desires to suck the thumb, they can use such postures to compete with the urge.

  1. Positively initiate the conversation with the child

A child who is old enough for thumb sucking to affect their teeth is also old enough to understand the harms of this habit. You can do this in little creative ways.

Using examples of common animations, you can explain to the child the possibility of a buck teeth appearance caused by this habit.

Moreover, you can also show the child how different the sucked thumb looks from the other ones and let them know that thumb sucking has the sucked finger not looking as nice as the others.

  1. Create a perfect time for the conversation

Before approaching this subject or intervening in such a situation, ensure the baby is in a receptive mood. At this point, the child is likely to cooperate and remember the talk in the future to help him outgrow the habit.

When they are in a hostile mood, the child may likely resist as she may regard the intervention as interference with her independence. In such circumstances, your efforts may not yield any fruit.

  1. Constantly remind the child

It is not easy to stop a habit whatever age of an individual may be. Forgetting is part of the process of trying to refrain from a habit, thus the need to have a reminder. You might not always be there, for example, in the night or even be keen enough at all times to remind the child not to put their thumbs in the mouth.

You can figure out ways to remind the child that they should not be sucking their thumb even when no one stops them by using bandages or nail polish.

  1. Social boost

If the child seems withdrawn from other children and is instead seeking the company of the thumb, you can introduce the child to a social setting. Reprimanding the child due to the behavior will kill their self-esteem.

As a result, it will make them withdraw even more from people. Instead, give the child a social boost to encourage them to play with other kids to keep them preoccupied and off their thumb.

  1. Consult your child’s dentist

If the behavior is persistent and affects the growth of the child’s teeth, you can consult a dentist. Hoping for a gradual change can be too late and have the habit reflect on the child’s teeth.

A dentist can help by fitting a palatal appliance to prevent the thumb from pushing the teeth outward. It will further make it uncomfortable for the kid to suck their thumb.

What can I use?

To curb a habit, you have to try several things to realize what best works in your situation. Talking to a child may not be adequate to stop a child from thumb-sucking. You can try out several creative ideas that you can use to help your child.

This article helps you establish what you can use to help your child forego the thumb-sucking habit.


If you have a child who is always eager to negotiate and reach targets, you can try this approach. The targets can come with incentives to motivate the child.

You can agree; for instance, when the child gets to their 4th birthday, they should have stopped sucking their thumb so they may get a certain gift they have long desired.

The child will work hard to get to their present, and as a result, the behavior will slowly vanish. Remember to keep the promise as well.

Adhesive bandages and gloves

Train your child to keep their thumbs off the mouth by using an adhesive tape, bandage or a tongue depressor, especially for a nighttime thumb sucker.

Use of nail polish 

Nail polish may not be a long-term solution, especially for younger kids. For kids above four, you can encourage them with tactics such as painting their nails. This will constantly remind them that the hands should not be in their mouth.

Progress charts 

Encourage the child to have a chart or a record to mark the number of times they suck their thumb in a day so that they may keep track of their progress. Once they notice an improvement, it will keep them motivated to keep getting better and better.

Who can assist?

Sometimes, it may not be easy to help your child stop the thumb-sucking habit as a parent, especially if it’s progressed for a long time.

It is okay to seek help for your child at this stage. Several people can play a key role in helping your child outgrow the habit.

The dentist 

As we’ve seen, involving a dentist is essential, especially before and after the child grows permanent teeth. Before, a dentist can place a palatal appliance in the child’s mouth to prevent the child’s teeth from growing outwards.

If the teeth have already grown and there are signs of malocclusion, seek orthodontic treatment and care for your child.


A pediatrician can help you figure out why the child has difficulty curbing the thumb sucking habit. They also provide ways in which you can help the baby outgrow the practice.


A therapist comes in handy, especially if the problem is psychological. The therapist helps you deal with the underlying issue that will result in the halt of the practice.

Moreover, if the thumb sucking habit affected the child’s speech, you can involve a speech therapist to work on the child’s pronunciation and tone while on orthodontic treatment.

Is thumb sucking hereditary?

Thumb-sucking is another childhood body behavior like nail-biting, nose picking, etc. Sucking is also a natural reflex action present in babies from when they are born. However, the urge decreases when the child is six months old.

There has been no establishment of a thumb-sucking gene. Nonetheless, family factors and experiences tend to influence this behavior. Factors that affect this behavior in families include;

  • Families with poor eating habits. Nutritional dissatisfaction of the child will have the child sucking their thumbs for fulfilment.
  • Body denying families. These are families where the parents are emotionally cold and lack intimacy with their children.


To curb a habit is not easy. It requires determination and persistence. With the tips and help of the professionals listed in the article, you will surely have an easy time getting your thumb-sucking child to stop the behavior.

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