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How to Happily Stop Thumb Sucking (hint: mittens!)

May 16, 2013

written by Cathy Baker, mom of two sweet tweens, who both sucked their thumbs when they were little

The day I found them resting together with all their stuffed animals. Ages 1 & 3

Neither of my girls took much to a pacifier, but they were both avid thumb-suckers.  And I tried different ways to get them to stop, but it was always a struggle.  Finally, by Kindergarten, I came up with two different methods that worked to get them to break this once cute, and now not-so-cute habit — different kids, different solutions! Perhaps one of these will work for you!


My oldest only sucked her thumb when she had her beloved duck in her arms (see above picture). His name is Crackers. He’s been through three beaks and had a few stitches, and he still holds a pretty big part of our hearts!  So during the day, he stayed in her bed.  She’d hold him tightly during naps and bedtime and enjoy her thumb, but otherwise, she’d never consider sucking her thumb.

So, to break her habit, we set up a little bed next to her for Crackers to sleep in at night. He was next to her, but not in her arms. By 2nd or 3rd night, I went to go to bed and found him in her arms and her thumb securely in her mouth.  When I asked her the next morning about it, she informed me that indeed Crackers crawled into her bed and he put her thumb in her mouth!  Oh, that bad duck! We decided maybe he needed to sleep in my bedroom if he was going to do things like that! She agreed (reluctantly).  After about six weeks, I gave him back. And she never sucked her thumb again!


Well, let’s talk about daughter number two.  She sucked her thumb whenever she had her ear (again, see photo above)! One hand on the ear, the other thumb in her mouth. Umm, I can’t take away her ear.  And she sucked her thumb everywhere, all day long. Even in Kindergarten. I did not like this, but what could I do?  Then if I do say so myself, I had this genius idea! Here it is…

I filled a basket (kinda looked like a treasure chest) with lots of cheap toys from the dollar spot.  Lots of them.  I needed motivation here.  And I bought her a pair of mittens. You know those two pair for $3 ones from Target?  Yep, those ones.

I then made this deal with her.  If she kept her mittens on her hands all night long, then in the morning, she could get something out of the treasure chest! She LOVED this idea.  And she kept her mittens on each night.  It was her choice, if she would have said ‘no’ – then I wouldn’t have made her wear them, but she was motivated by the toys, so she said ‘yes’.

Often in the mornings when I’d go to wake her up, I’d watch her thumb instinctively, and habitually, try to make her way to mouth, but as soon as it felt the the mitten fuzz on her lips, she’d drop her hand.  We did this for about six weeks. After I noticed her thumb no longer trying to go to her mouth in the morning, I told her she could stop wearing the gloves. And guess what?! It worked!! Not just at night, but it also broke the habit for the daytime too!!

So if you are in the season of trying to end thumb sucking in your little ones, I hope of these ideas inspires you!! And if you’ve had success in this area…share your tips to encourage other moms!

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1 Comment »

  1. Marykate

      on May 16, 2013 8:51 pm

    No thumb suckers but if I did… Brilliant! Love the positive reinforcement! I had a visit from the paci fairy for my crew


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