Toddler Thumb Sucking – Will It Fall Off?

One over-sucked thumb.  (Pardon the quality, it was taken with my phone.)

I swore that I would never have to deal with toddler thumb sucking.  After all, Andy didn’t take a pacifier or suck his thumb.  I figured it would be the same thing with Norton.  Of course, it turns out that I figured wrong.  He refused a pacifier and latched on to his thumb.  Now the toddler thumb sucking has gotten completely and utterly out of hand.

I’m just plain not sure what I should be doing about this.

I’m actually kind of concerned.  The toddler thumb sucking has gotten worse.  It’s almost constant that he has his thumb in his mouth.  I’ve already had enough troubles with Norton’s teeth.  No cavities that the dentist could tell after our dentist visit from Hell.  He does, however, have that extra left lateral incisor, and that’s causing some crowding.  However, he’s spending so much time with his thumb in his mouth that it’s causing other problems.  Some of his teeth are starting to shift to compensate for his thumb.  But that’s not all.

It’s starting to interfere with toddler talking.  He’s finally very nearly caught up from his language delay, but now we’re starting to find a new problem.  He doesn’t want to take his thumb out of his mouth to speak some of the time.

And his thumb?  It’s looking awful.  He only sucks one thumb.  I guess the other just doesn’t fit in his mouth properly or something.  And he lives with that thumb in his mouth.  It’s gone beyond that painful wrinkled pruning that happens to the skin when one stays in water too long.  It’s starting to peel.  It’s red and irritated and just plain looks painful.  There are a few times that I’ve been almost certain that his tantrum is due to the fact that it hurt to suck on his thumb.

Now I just need to figure out what to actually do about it.  Putting hot sauce on his thumb seems barbaric… and I’m pretty sure it would hurt since he’s damaged the skin.  I’ve seen this brace thing that parents put on the thumb so that kid can’t quite latch onto the thumb the same way.  There’s no pleasure of sucking on the thumb, so they just stop.  I’ve heard of using a bitter nail polish.

What actually works, though?  It’s not like I can just take away his thumb… and I’m starting to worry that he’s just seriously going to muck up the works.  It’s bad enough that I’m already anticipating braces.  I don’t want to have to look forward to reconstructive thumb surgery or something else (being completely ridiculous here) because he won’t keep his thumb out of his mouth.

Did you have a thumb sucker?  How did you break the habit?

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. This may sound mean… And I do love my son very much… But I prefer his thumb intact. He’s been a thumb sucker since day one, and is now nearly 4 years old. Nothing worked; he took off bandaids, and seemed to enjoy the taste of tabasco, hot sauce and the nail polish stuff.

    We’ve started putting him in time outs. First a warning, then off to time out with his hands on the table(a minute for every year of his life). Time out is ended with an explanation that he can no longer suck his thumb as he will be going to school next year, hugs, and I love yous.

    It has proven to be very effective, at least in our household.

  2. I think those caps that go over their thumbs look promising…I was also thinking you could put some ointment on his thumb and wrap it in gauze, then wrap it down his hand so it stays better and he probably wouldn’t want to put it in his mouth. :/ maybe?

  3. Both my girls were – and still are – thumb suckers. They are now 6 and 5, and yes, they still suck their thumbs when they are tired. I honestly never tried to do anything to break the habit; my oldest is definitely going to need braces, the younger one is still too young to know.

    It doesn’t bother me, though. Honestly, there are worst things I could think of that they could be doing, so if sucking their thumb makes them happy, then I’m okay with it.

    My daughter got a sore on her thumb once and I had to bandage it for a while, she wasn’t happy, but once the sore healed she went right back to sucking it! lol

  4. The only thing I have heard of is using the bitter nail polish and the brace as well. I know it sounds kind of iffy, but compared to how his thumb looks now and how much worse it could get, I’d go with the brace!

  5. I wish I had a suggestion however I have a thumb sucker who I am trying to get to stop and my toddler is sucking two of his fingers. I can only suggest taking him to his doctor to make sure its not infection.

  6. I wish I had a suggestion for you! Neither of my kids were thumb suckers but, my oldest use to pick his lips and they would look horrible… and I know it had to hurt. We finally tried using the bitter nail polish (suggestion from the doctor) and it worked wonderfully. Just touching his lips would get the taste in his mouth and he hated it (I tried it, and it was pretty nasty). He eventually did stop after we constantly were making sure he had the polish on. I hope this might help you a little!

    Good Luck!


  7. Hot sauce seems kind of cruel, but LOOK AT THAT THUMB; that looks equally awful.

    • I don’t think that hot sauce would phase him. He’s gobbled down his dad’s food with things like Louisiana Hell Fire sauce and stuff. But I do think that putting the sauce on an open injury would be cruel and unusual punishment for sure. 🙁

  8. I remember sucking my thumb pretty late in life….like until I was 8-10, although only at night. I had some orthodontic issues, but nothing like this. I wish I knew what to say to help. My mom tried everything…the bitterant first, but what really seemed to work was she put a little hot sauce on my thumb and then wrapped it in duct tape. I know that sounds harsh, and it wouldn’t work in your son’s case since he has an open wound and is a little young for such extreme measures, but it sure stopped me dead in my tracks!!!!

  9. OMG he is sucking that thing to death! My son is a thumb sucker, but nothing like this. He’s 5 now and we’re really trying to get him to stop. He mostly does it at night and when relaxed watching tv or something. I wish I had an answer. For now, maybe you can try a wound ointment and bandgage it, at least during the day? Maybe when he feels and tastes the bandaid, it won’t be so great.

  10. Melissa S.O.S. Mom says:

    Oh poor thing! His poor thumb! My son never wanted the pacifier and hasn’t sucked his thumb… Yet! Don’t thing he will, at least I hope not! He only sucks on his fingers when he’s hungry… I don’t know what I’d do if I had to break such a habit though…

  11. when I was little I use to bite my nails all the way down. My dad let them grow back but then put that bitter nail polish. It worked, I hated the taste it was horrifying and never did it again. He also used camfophonique (sp) on my lips so I wouldn’t suck on my bottom lip.

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge