I have a wonderful, energetic, fun spirited, social, loving 3 year old daughter. She has been sucking her thumb since infancy. She only does so when she is tired or nervous.  I’ve read various ways to encourage her to refrain from sucking her thumb without any success. Others are quick to share their insight and horror stories (mine didn’t stop till she was 9….my doctor says that he has to stop by 3 otherwise his permanent teeth will be affected…mine stopped when she was made fun of at school) and try not to get discouraged knowing that eventually she will stop however I want to provide support and help for her to stop.



I have to admit, I am such a non alarmist when it comes to this stuff.  I actually have a deformed thumb due to chronic thumb sucking as a kid and the only downside it has seemed to give me is the inability to ever have been a hand model…which is a shame because I have really nice hands otherwise.

But really, it always comes down to behavior and why the behavior is occurring.  Right now, her thumb sucking is habitually filling a need.  It sounds like it calms her and it works for her.  Until she feels that this behavior no longer serves its purpose, she will continue to suck her thumb.

So what can you do?  If you are concerned with long term impacts, help her identify when and why she sucks her thumb and come up with some replacement behaviors.  If she instinctually sucks her thumb at night time, maybe offer her a new sippy cup filled with water to replace the thumb to take “relaxing sips” to help with the oral fixation.  Or a different replacement item that she chooses.

If she sucks her thumb in social situations where she is uncomfortable, have some comfort items available to distract her from her normal patterns if you don’t want her sucking her thumb, but explain to her why so she understands.  You are really just replacing one habit for another at this point, until she is old enough to understand how to make the switch on her own, but developmentally, she may not be there, so you will have to help her come up with the alternatives.

In the meantime, it will be helpful to start teaching her self soothing techniques that relax her mind. I am a huge fan of guided meditation CDs for kids that teach them positive affirmations, muscle relaxation and little stories of how to handle challenging emotions.  Plus they always knocked me out when I listened with them…

But in the long run, as you stated, she won’t suck her thumb forever.   Just like they eventually stop peeing their pants and move on from the binky, it happens.  Something will trigger her to change it up and move on.  And if you support her in finding that trigger, go for it, but try not to beat yourself up when you recognize that just like everything else, she’ll change her own behavior when she’s good and ready.