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How Do You Get Your Kid To Stop Sucking Their Thumb? These 9 Moms Share Their Success Stories

As a mom, I often feel like I'm a pro at saying "no" and "don't do that." I want my kid to be free, don't get me wrong, but I constantly have to prevent him for doing something that could be potentially damaging. For example, his thumb sucking. Sure, it’s a way to self-soothe and I wouldn’t encourage a mom to stop her baby from doing it, but eventually you have to get your kid to stop sucking their thumb for their own good. And believe me when I say it's nothing short of a challenge.

My son was never a pacifier kid. He used one during his stay at the NICU, but once he came home he preferred his thumb. My partner and I thought it was sweet, and it really wasn’t a problem when he was a baby. Before we knew it he was very attached to his thumb, though, whether it was to show he was hungry, sleepy, or upset. When he entered toddlerhood I recognized it was a comfort issue, and tried to replace his thumb with stuffed animals and blankets and toys. Those attempts were futile, though, and he would suck and chew his thumbs raw to the point he’d end up with open cuts.

My partner and I used bandaids (because who liked sucking on bandaids?) and it definitely helped reduce his habit. He still sucks his thumb a tad, but it’s definitely less than before and we’re hoping he eventually finds new ways to self-soothe. I asked other moms to share how they’ve been able to end this habit (or how they’re working on it), and you better believe I'm about to try some of the following:

Sue, 54

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“My son sucked his thumb until age 8. He was just as eager to stop as we were to get him to stop. We tried to wait it out, but after a trip to the dentist we realized it was starting to impact his permanent teeth, which had grown in nice and straight. I finally bought Mavala Stop Nail Biting and it worked for us. However, about a year later, he was starting to suck his pinky. Again, we waited it out until we just couldn't anymore. Used the same stuff and it worked a second time.”

Abby, 39

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“My great-grandma lost part of her thumb in an accident. She was mowing her lawn, reached down to pick up a rock, and the mower somehow found her thumb. (This must have been pre-1970). She told every grandchild and great-grandchild that her thumb had fallen off because she sucked it too much, and she had the stump to prove it. None of us had issues quitting.”

Paris, 30

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“I broke my 4-month-old infant from it per my dentist and now he’s addicted to his pacifier. We felt that it was the lesser of two evils. It was constant redirecting for over a month to replace the thumb with his paci.”

Clara, 49

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“My daughter used her thumb to self-soothe and was a good sleeper because of it. She still occasionally sucks it when she’s really tired and she’s now 12. There’s not much you can do about it when it’s attached to their hand.”

Carol, 40

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“Both of my kids sucked two fingers (the same two, and they were the ones I sucked as well) from birth, and both stopped around age 3 or 4 when other kids told them it was babyish.”

Beth, 37

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“I bought the nasty tasting nail polish for my 3-year-old after my dentist warned me about her growing an overbite. It worked instantly, but the downside was that we lost her nap and bedtime went from 10 minutes to an hour long process because she could no longer self-soothe. If I had to redo it, I would have waited.”

Amy, 53

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“My only concern about thumb-sucking was braces. I have three kids, and the first two didn't suck their thumbs. One needed braces, the second did not. My third still does it when he sleeps (he's 10) and his teeth look great. So I'm of the ‘let it ride’ school of parenting on this one!”

Karah, 31

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“So I haven’t had to deal with it with my kids, but I sucked my thumb until I was 7. My parents tried all the classic ways of getting me to stop: bitter stuff, hot stuff, paying me money to not suck it at night. Eventually they had to have an appliance put in behind my teeth, but I was still able to get suction. So the dentist added a tiny point to the appliance that would prick my thumb any time I went to suck. It only took a few days and I was done for good. It was causing dental issues and my thumb nail lifted causing infection. My parents weren’t against the comforting aspect.”

Krystal, 33

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“I sucked my fingers (ring and middle finger) until I was 7 years old. One day I just randomly stopped. My parents tried putting soap on my fingers while I was asleep, rubbing jalapeños or hot sauce... nothing worked in getting me to stop. I also had a lovey until that age, too. I remember sucking my fingers and using my lovey. My parents did ‘Cry It Out,’ even back then some 30+ years ago, so I know that my sucking and lovey were a complete comfort thing.”

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.