My 4 year Old Sucks Her Thumb

February 12th, 2013 posted by Family Corner Staff

Photo Copyright Amanda Formaro/The Family Corner.com 1998, 1999, 2000

Q:

“I have a 4 yr old that has sucked her thumb since she was 2. I have tried everything: spices, hot pepper, hot sauce, nail polish on the finger nail, spanking, corner, etc. You name it, it’s been done. Please give me some advice!”

~ Natalie

Answers from our members:

Laurawrote:

I was a thumb sucker until I was 9 years old. Thumb sucking is how some children choose to cope with stress. My mom used to try to get me to stop and it only increased my need for thumb sucking. So my suggestion is to let it be and if you are worried about germs have her wash her hands. My 3 yr old daughter is old enough that I tell her it is ok just wash her hands and she is more than willing to do so. As for thumb sucking hurting the teeth…it didn’t hurt mine. I have never had braces or dental appliances. My sister never sucked her thumb and she wears braces. So teeth malformation is largely genetic. Don’t make a big deal out of it when someone mentions it. Ask them how many adults do they see that still thumb suck. Children grow out of it.

Lisawrote:

While there is major controversy over whether thumb sucking causes tooth malformation or not, one of the things most parents don’t consider with a thumb sucking child is the GERMS. Does your child wash his/her hands before placing that thumb in their mouth? Of course not! Most thumb suckers have a higher incidence of colds, flu and ear/nose/throat infections due to the increased exposure to germs. Since you have tried all of the other methods – hot sauces, nail polishes, etc., one of the other alternatives is to create a “no thumb” shirt. Take a long slevved, button down type shirt (or T-shirt if you can sew well). Turn the shirt so that the buttons are down the back. Take a pair of heavy cotton gloves and sew the gloves to the ends of the sleeves. When you put the shirt on your child with the buttons down the back, they will be unable to remove it, and the gloves will prevent or deter them from sucking their thumb.

Tammy Romewrote:

I have two thumbsuckers, ages 6 and 3. I have videotape proof that they were meant to be thumbsuckers from the moment of conception. The videos of their ultrasounds show them both sucking their thumbs furiously at 24 weeks gestation. Based on advice from our pediatrician, our chiropractor and our dentist, we have not made a big deal out of it. However, we did notice that after age 4, our daughter only sucked her thumb when she was tired, bored or sick. So we began to gently confront her and offer her alternatives. Now that she is cutting her adult teeth, she is motivated to quit on her own. She rarely sucks her thumb now–only when ill or extremely tired or stressed. I liked the earlier comment about high intelligence and thumbsucking. I really think that is true. My little girl has so many strong opinions and maturity far beyond her years (6 going on 21!). Thumbsucking is her way of coping (ditto for my son). Hang in there and don’t sweat the small stuff! She will give it up in due time. Healthy Instinct

Dulcewrote:

Natalie, One thing you might try is asking the question, “WHY does she suck her thumb?” Is it because of boredom, tiredness, insecurity, at this point with all of your efforts to make her quit, it could even be her own type of rebellion – “this is the one thing in my life I can control and your not going to make me stop”… she may not be able to verbalize it this way but it could be part of her independence showing through. After you think you know the answer (and it may be one or more of the above, or something else I’ve overlooked) – then start a strategy to help her find a different way of dealing with __________. (boredom, tiredness, insecurity, etc.) I think the one thing you want to absolutely avoid is damaging her self esteem or “spirit” through the “war” over whether or not she sucks her thumb. If you have any questions, let me know, I hope this is helpful to you. Dulce

Justinewrote:

I have had 3 thumb suckers. On the first one I was concerned about the sucking making his teeth crooked. I took him to the dentist for a check up and the dentist told me that it wouldn’t cause any problems as long as he stopped before 8 years old. When he was in kindergarten and the beginning of 1st grade he still sucked it a little, mostly at night but HE wanted to stop. So I made it be his responsibility to put on the nail biting yukky stuff to help remind himself not to suck. This helped him feel like he was in control of the situation. And he stopped in a matter of weeks. I think that the sucking is a comfort to them, but also gets to be a habit as they get older, which need to be broken. Involving the child in solving the problem instead of making it a punishment worked best for us. I used the same approach with my other two thumb suckers and it worked great. Just relax and don’t make it a major issue.

Janetwrote:

Regardless of what some people say it is a big deal when older children suck their thumbs. It messes up their teeth. I have 2 daughters that both sucked their thumbs. They both ended up with brace. I went for 2nd opinions because braces are so expensive and both orthodontists said that the thumb sucking contributed to the problem. My youngest daughter had an appliance put in the roof of her mouth by the dentist that is made to make kids quit sucking their thumbs. It worked for her. Good Luck

joannewrote:

get over it! she needs the comfort! how many adults do you see walking around sucking their thumbs? She will eventually give it up.

Susanwrote:

My son sucked his thumb for many years. I had also tried everything and everyone’s advice. Finally taking him to the Dentist for a check up and speaking to him about the problem, did it! A constant reminder now and then helped him kick the habit! At 20 years old, he now has a wonderful smile!

Patwrote:

What’s the big deal? It is a comfort for her. She is probably a very gifted child and experiencing the frustration of not being able to vocalize, due to limits in vocabulary. I had thumb suckers and they all quit when they were ready. Usually after first grade. I say relax and let child enjoy the pleasure and security of sucking her thumb. she really isn’t hurting any one by it. Are you embarrassed by her thumb sucking? Than the problem is yours not hers. My grandson is a thumb sucker as well and he is 5. When he is involved and busy with his hands he doesn’t suck it. I say leave them alone and they will out grow it. How many adults do you know who suck their thumbs?

Trilbie A. Collinswrote:

With regard to your daughter sucking her thumb, I can talk from experience. I started as a child and continued until adulthood. As mentioned, my mother tried all of the above mentioned remedies. However, I discovered as a adult that there was an insecurity factor which my parents never tapped into. Having two sisters younger than I by two years caused my mother to wean me off the bottle and pacified, apparently before my time and thereby, I would resort to the comfort of my thumb. It was a crutch which through self-examination allowed what insecurities to surface to come to light and be addressed. Watch you daughter carefully and note when she sucks her thumb, when anxious, frustrated, after meals, before naps and bed times. Believing the above will be helpful. Feel free to contact me.

Pamwrote:

I have a 3 year old that sucks her thumb constantly! Have you ever tried the nail polish that makes your finger or finger nail taste bad? I believe it used to be called no-bite. Tastes awful!

Amandawrote:

I hope you get some advice here. A friend of mine’s daughter sucked her thumb all the way through Kindergarten. She still sucks it at night in her sleep and she is now 8. Good luck! :)


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Family Corner Staff (674 Posts)


  • Jo Anne Stubbs

    Everyone has said what I was going to say, but I agree to just ignore it, however she is old enough to make a deal with and the deal could be that she can suck all she wants to when she goes to bed at night, but not during the day. A small treat might be nice for her if she can manage this

  • Amie Horvath

    We have sonograms and video in the womb of her sucking her thumb and playing/twirling her hair. I look at it this way. She knew what she liked before she was born and is intellegent enough to self sooth. My dentist said if she doesn’t stop prior to her grown up teeth starting – around the age of 5 – then it’s time for an appliance. At 4.5 I can see her top jaw starting to form to her thumb. She just loves it. But as she gets older, she does it less and less. She hasn’t learned another way to cope with extreme stress, like being very upset or sick yet. We are working on methods as I think it will help.

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