Thumb sucking for dummies: how to stop the habit

Thumb suckingWe have two new additions to the house. Well, actually four. Scrip has finally stopped sucking her thumb at six and a half and her present was two fish – one for her, one for D. A week or so afterwards we spotted a baby fish in the tank (Mini) and this week another one (Mini two).

I’m slightly worried that we’ll soon be overrun with Minis and the tank will have to be upgraded, but at the same time it’s lovely seeing these tiny tadpole-like fry darting around and the last thing I want is either to be eaten by their parents, which apparently does happen…

Cannibal fish habits aside, we’ve learnt quite a bit about thumb sucking recently, and as I have a keen finger sucker in D, hopefully I can remember these things for next time:

  • Thumb sucking has been a godsend in the past and has helped so much with self-soothing, so try not to lose sight of how useful it can be in your hurry to stop it. We first spotted Scrip sucking her thumb in a scan picture, so it really was an in-built thing!
  • Start early by talking to your child about it so they’re aware. We talk to D now (age three) and did the same with Scrip. Don’t make them feel bad about it but do encourage them to understand when they’re doing it as it’s often a subconscious habit.
  • Start by confining the thumb sucking to sleep times – first naps and then night times. We now encourage D to keep his finger sucking to night time only, so he doesn’t do it too much during the day. He’s recently stopped doing it when we’re reading to him. By the time Scrip went to school she wasn’t sucking her thumb during the day, which helped her to stop eventually.
  • We also stopped her sucking it in the car as we knew she’d probably fall asleep anyway on long journeys. This was really good as she was worried she couldn’t fall asleep without sucking her thumb – this convinced her she actually could.
  • Get the dentist involved! With Scrip we looked at stories online about thumb sucking abd how it affects your teeth, and then we asked the dentist to talk to her about what would happen if she didn’t stop – she really listened to him!
  • Follow advice. The dentist also told us that she should ideally stop before her baby teeth came out but definitely when the new ones started growing through – around six or seven – which gave her something to aim for.
  • That nail paint helps. She was really determined she would stop but she needed a lot of support. We painted the bitter nail biting liquid Mavala on her thumb which I tasted too (and was pretty sour). But she was happy to try it and I knew it would help her not to keep putting her thumb in by mistake.
  • Have a reward they’d really like in mind. Scrip chose a present that she could get after a week without thumb sucking (the burgeoning fish population!)
  • Help occupy their hands. She chose a toy she could cuddle so she had something to do with her hands (a skinny one was good to wrap her hands around).
  • Be prepared to help with sleeping. We also said we’d stand with her and stroke her hair for a few minutes to reassure her that she could get to sleep without her thumb. Like sleep training when she was little, we tried to leave when she was about to drop off but not when she was soundly sleeping.
  • Give a lot of praise. It probably goes without saying but we really are proud of her determination and bravery with something that’s been a part of her life and routine for over six years.

So far, so good. And they both love the fish (all four of them). Good luck if you’re trying to help a little one stop.


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