Tips on Weaning your Little One from Thumb and Finger Sucking

Disclosure:: This post is sponsored by Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry and authored by Dr. Anita Gouri. 

Tips on Weaning your Little One from Thumb and Finger Sucking

Thumb or finger sucking is a natural soothing instinct that often develops in uteroThumb sucking and finger sucking habit and persists into the toddler years. There is a strong emotional component and feeling of security that is created by a sucking habit. Therefore, it’s important to understand that a child must be mentally ready to stop their finger sucking habit. In other words, we have to encourage them to want to stop this habit from happening consciously, and wean down to where they tend to suck only when extremely tired or distracted.

To get them to this stage, we recommend awareness on the child’s part as well as lots and lots of positive encouragement.

Talk you your little one about why it’s important to stop, and use positive language:

  • “Stopping is just part of growing up. You’re __ years old now and so big and brave! You help mommy with so many things. I think you can do this.”
  • “Stopping helps keep yucky germs out of your mouth”
  • “Stopping keeps your smile looking beautiful like a princess/superhero”

Reinforce your child’s sense of security and confidence outside the thumb

  • Build your child’s confidence with a lot of positive feedback when they do something “independent” or “grown up” (“I love how you used your words there. Thank you for telling me how you feel.” or, “It’s so great that you finished all your food like a big boy!”)
  • Avoid negative commentary directed at the thumb (“Thumb sucking is only something little babies do”)
  • Direct the most focus on times when the finger is out of their mouth (“I’m so proud of you!”) versus when it is in their mouth (“I told you to stop.”)
  • Create more special moments between the two of you that foster a special, secure connection, like:
    • One-on-one time before bed, where you read and talk together, with lots of hugs and cuddles—helping to establish that soothing, secure feeling that eventually replaces the thumb
    • Create a special symbol, handshake, or secret only the two of you share


  • Create a chart or system that earns them a sticker or token for every set amount of time they do not suck the thumb/finger; at the end of the week a reward is given for so many stickers/tokens (Preferably not candy! ????)

Explore alternative comforts

  • Encourage your child to turn to you or another family member, rather than soothing with objects for security
  • Figure out when/where the thumb/finger habit is triggered and think of a transitional object they can use to comfort themselves with during this time (ie small stuffed animal)

Once they’ve reached a stage where they are willing to stop, but just need a reminder when they are tired or distracted, find ways to subtly remind them to stop.

Here are some ideas:

  • Have a “goodbye thumb/finger” party!fidget spinner to occupy hands
  • Give your child an object to “distract their hands,” like a squishy ball or fidget spinner
  • Wrap a bandaid around their thumb/finger as a subtle reminder
  • Bitter-tasting nail polish (i.e. “Mavala Stop,” which is sold on Amazon), is another good subtle reminderMavala bitter nail polish for thumb or finger sucking
  • For bedtime:
    • Try wrapping an Ace Bandage around their elbow to make it harder for them to flex and bring the thumb to their mouth
    • Have your child wear socks on their hands
  • Don’t forget the positive language (“I’m so proud of you for not needing your thumb to help you fall asleep last night!”)

Of course there are rare instances where a finger sucking habit can persist well into Thumb Cribthe elementary school years despite our best efforts.  There are some additional appliances that can be of use, such as a thumb guard or “crib” appliance that prevents the finger from resting in the child’s mouth.  These appliances are a last resort, for more “stubborn” cases where cessation of nighttime sucking needs a little extra reinforcement.

Why is it important to stop?

Prolonged finger/thumb sucking can actually cause detrimental effects to the developing jaws and teeth. We have seen many conditions, such as crossbites and open bites (where the front teeth do not overlap properly), that have been created by digit sucking and can lead to speech and orthodontic problems. Correction with braces isn’t always possible with a persistent habit or at an early age.

We here at Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry understand that digit sucking is a natural soothing instinct, and that there is a lot of emotion involved. That’s why we recommend beginning positive conversations and confidence-building as early as possible, when your child is beginning to understand and learn about themselves. For more information, please to do not hesitate to schedule a consult with us. We are here for you and your child! Call us at (337) 981-9242.

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Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry
Lafayette Pediatric Dentistry is one of Acadiana’s premier pediatric dental practices, specializing in treating infants to adolescents. We are a boutique-style office that is known for quality, customized care for your child, focusing on making the dental experience fun, comfortable, and fear-free! Dr. Anita J Gouri has had extensive training in laser dentistry, sedation/hospital dentistry, and special needs dentistry. She is also one of the area’s recommended providers for diagnosis and treatment of tongue and lip ties. She graduated from the LSU School of Dentistry in 2006, completed her residency in pediatric dentistry at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC in 2008, and became a board certified diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry in 2009. She has been practicing in Lafayette for over 11 years. Dr. Gouri, her husband Brian, and their two children enjoy travel, Saints football, good food and good friends.


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