Thursday, 16 February 2012

How we stopped 'Thumbsucking' in Four (sort-of) Simple Steps

Ok, so today was a BIG milestone in the world of my 3.5 year old daughter! I wrote recently about our process of helping Lily stop sucking her thumb.... we were using the yucky tasting nail biting stuff, and it was working pretty well but she was still putting her thumb in her mouth on occasion and I noticed just recently she was starting to just suck off the nasty taste and well... keep going! Ergghhh?!? I knew we had to take it another level.... so I introduced four new steps...

But firstly I gotta add - wow, there is a lot of awesome help and support in blogland!! Thanks to everyone who chimed in with ideas, I think a 'multi-pronged approach' was required to really move past this deeply entrenched habit. I mean, it's something she has done as a source of comfort since she was just a few weeks old - incredible to think of the self-control it takes for a little person to move past this habit.

And so, here are the four steps that worked for *us*.... I hope they might help you too if you are hunting for that ever elusive cure....I will say thought that ultimately it helps a LOT if you can talk things through with your child, so they understand why they need to stop. If they are on board with this, needless to say it will all be a lot easier! Because, really, it's in their control, not yours!!! Challenging as that is ;)

Four Steps Along the Road to 'Stopping Thumbsucking'....
  1. We talked together about a special reward for her very diligent efforts and I offered that if she could not suck her thumb at all for three full days, I would paint her finger and toe nails in any colour she chose. She was excited. To say the least!!!! Thanks to this clever lady for the reward tip (I knew nail and toe nail painting would be far more exciting to Lily than any big toy, she has dreamt of getting this done for aaaages but I had held off)
  2. Because three days is an awful long time in the life of a three year old, I also offered a small 'sometimes food' treat at the end of each night (a little chocolate) to keep the momentum up! This rarely happens so she was very excited about this too.
  3. Thanks to a tip from another wonderful lady (oh, and incredible photographer too!), I bought a bunch of thick Elastoplasts. Funnily enough, I had bought bandaids when we started all this, but they slipped off way too easily and especially once they got wet in the frequent hand washing that is the life of a toddler, they would fall right off so I gave them up pretty quickly - didn't even think of Elastoplasts! But oh baby, those things are not going anywhere, they stick soooo well and are very flexible too so are no bother to her various busy activities. Jackpot!
  4. I made a simple (dodgy) chart with 1,2,3 listed on it which she could cross off every night.


Success to say the least... she has sucked her thumb NOT ONCE in three days. I have not even see her put her thumb to her mouth. And did so happily, with great joy, excitement and pride. I was so proud (and quietly shocked!!!)... so today was the great big day... (the 4th day, after three full days)

Crossing off the third day...

Um, do you think she was excited to cross off the last day?
She chose her fave colours - pink + purple!

Delicious little toes
Sweet chubby little fingers with light pink - note Elastoplasts!
Happy girl - even with her snuffly little face!

It was so easy to delight in my girl today. I know it doesn't seem like much but it's a big step in her very little world. She kept exclaiming 'I'm so proud of myself!' - Heehee! I know it's not over yet, but three days without ANY thumb sucking is certainly the longest she has gone since she born! (Well, about 5 or 6 week old I think she started). So now she knows and I know she can do it. It certainly seems a significant step. I admit when I was reading her a book tonight at bed time, I realised how strange it was that she wasn't contentedly sucking  her thumb (or trying to) as she usually would.... yes, a little piece of her babyhood is being left behind...(sob)

But that's ok! It's all part of growing up and I'm thankful we were able to tackle this little challenge together. I am actually a little bit shocked that this has all worked so well! (Don't tell her that). From here on in we will keep with the Elastoplasts and maybe small treats along the way. Perhaps trial with them off in a week or two and see how she goes, putting them back on if she still struggles till the habit is truly broken - I guess we will just feel our way through it as we have so far! It's all trial and error, isn't it? I don't think there is necessarily one perfect fix for every child (sorry if you are reading this hoping for that!) but rather finding the 'currency' that is meaningful for your child. I am just thankful that we seem to have worked out a winning combo at last!! She was ready, so was I, and here we are.

Well done, little girl! Mummy is so proud of you... you have risen above habit and instinct to achieve your goal with determination and strength...and joy! It was not easy and oh, you shed tears, but you persevered, and you prayed and you did it! Hold on to this, sweet child, it is a blessed skill that will help you in so many other areas of life. You can rise above!

For reference, here is the post where we started on the 'stop thumbsucking' project, and here is our big celebration five weeks after this post was written, when we declared her officially broken of the habit, yippee, it really worked!!! :)


  1. You have such a great way with words Kate, I love reading what you write. It is all trial and error with kids and sometimes the right timing is exactly what is needed to bring it all together. Go Lily! :)

  2. This is awesome. Congratulations to you! What a lovely read too. The wall chart is super cute!

  3. Well done to your clever little lady and to Mummy for persevering with such a tough thing. Hope it continues for you. Love the documentation through photos.

  4. Well done Lily! She really wanted it and she did it :) Give her a high 5 from me :)
    Love reading your thoughts, as always.

  5. fantastic work Lily. I hope my Tilly will be as clever as you when she has to give up her thumbing sucking.

  6. Oh that is awesome news!!! So glad that the info helped! Good on you Lily - you're a star! Have to say that I absolutely love that pic of her 3 day chart with the big blue cross off! She couldn't be any happier!

  7. That is fantastic! What great tips too:D (Nice work ladies!).

    Congrats on the big achievement little lady (and mamma!). That wall chart is seriously cute- that was a very enthusiastic cross off her chart hehe.

  8. Well done Lily (and Mum)! That is so cool that she is well on her way. Glad you gave the Elastoplasts a try, that photo of the painted nails with them on is sooo funny! Thanks for the shoutout :)


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