Peanut butter spoon as a substitute for thumbsucking

WickedStepMom (I don’t believe the “wicked” part) stumbled onto a possible solution for her stepdaughter’s thumbsucking:

My 7 year old step-daughter came to our house burnt to a crisp this past weekend. So, I had her help me put aloe lotion on her sunburn. In the process, she got the lotion all over her hands. She is a thumb-sucker and realized that she couldn’t suck her thumb even after she washed her hands, because it “tasted funny.” So, in a desperate search for a substitute, I grabbed a small tea spoon out of the drawer and scooped peanut butter on it. She liked it quite a bit and is now trying to quit sucking her thumb. She is now asking for a peanut butter spoon instead. It is not what I intended but, it definately is helping her break the habit.

Huh. If only my daughter liked peanut butter! She’s approaching her fifth birthday and sucks her thumb as much as ever. It’s her comfort when hungry or tired. Any other tips for helping her break the habit?


  1. says

    I’m wondering what you do when you don’t have easy access to peanut butter or honey and she wants to suck her thumb… Plus, honey’s not great for the teeth and peanut butter has a lot of fat. I think I would recommend some other sort of soothie/lovey that you teach alternate behavior with. My daughter loves a satin ribbon, which is super-easy to pack and take anywhere (for older kids, it could go in a pocket). Then you just work with her to teach her that every time she feels like sucking her thumb, rub the satin ribbon (or hug a stuffed animal, etc. – whatever works for you) instead of sucking. It will take a while, so be patient. To make the thumb less desirable, you can put a tiny dab of tea tree oil on the tips of thumbs (especially at the times you know she’s more likely to suck) to make them taste bad. It tastes yucky and lasts a long time.

  2. Elaine says

    You could mix it up a bit. Sugar-free lollipop or a popsicle in the hot summer months.

  3. says

    My daughter only does it at night when she goes to sleep, so this is a very messy proposition for us! ;)

    She hasn’t lost her baby teeth yet so at the dentist yesterday I casually mentioned her habit to the hygienist who encouraged her to stop. My daughter likes to do “the right thing” so her immediate response was “I’ll quit tonight.” I haven’t asked her yet how it went, though so any other suggestions on helping her quit would be appreciated.

    It’s scary when I google for information and find all these testimonies of adults who say they sucked their thumb into their teen years or still do!

  4. Marla says

    I’m surprised the dentist didn’t have any thing to help. My mother-in-law frequently tells the story of how she got her daughter to quit sucking her thumb. They had tried EVERYTHING, even ideas her daughter had come up with herself (putting socks on her hands, etc.). The dentist put a piece of plastic (kind of a retainer, I guess) that fit on the roof of her mouth and she never sucked her thumb again. He said it always worked because kids don’t like the way the plastic feels and their thumb doesn’t fit in their mouth the same as it did before. This was 30 years ago, of course, but I’m guessing there are still dentists or orthodontists out there that could help.

  5. C.W. says

    When my son turned four, I put that nail-biting stuff that I bought at Walgreens all over his thumb at night. I put it on AFTER he fell asleep and his thumb came out of his mouth. I felt awful because the first night he gagged and cried for 10 seconds. After a week, he no longer sucked his thumb. He never knew I had anything to do with putting the stuff on his thumb! A year later, his teeth have slowly moved back into a straighter position.

  6. Shannon says

    My 5yo daughter is a thumbsucker too. I thought I had more time to deal with this, but she came to me this morning and showed me her bottom two teeth all loose.

    I haven’t tried this, but a friend got some cast material (from a doctor or a friend who’s a doctor I think) and put a small cast around their daughters’ wrists to just partway up the thumb. The thumbs wouldn’t go all the way into the girls’ mouths, which made it not feel the same, and they quit. After a week, they took the casts off.

  7. says

    Piggybacking on Shannon’s anecdote about a cast, there is a similar product that makes thumb or finger sucking difficult. The ThumbGuard ( is a plastic device, held in place with a wristband, that prevents the wearer from being able to create suction around the thumb/finger. It’s not cheap (about US$75 including shipping), but it’s cheaper than orthodontic work later on.

  8. Chakolate says

    Please be careful with peanut butter. One of the enzymes in your mouth acts on peanut butter to make it much stiffer – it actually becomes a choking hazard.

  9. says

    Peanut butter on a spoon is also a great way to get rid of hiccups.

    Just put a good sized dollop of peanut butter on a spoon and then put it in your mouth and suck it off.

    Works like a charm.

    I think it works because it forces you to regulate your breathing through your nose, but I’m not sure.

  10. Laurie says

    My mother tried everything with me to stop sucking my fingers. I never stoped untill I was 21 and had a boyfriend :) I think her constant pushing to get me to quit only made me want to do it more. Mabey just let them quit when they were ready.

    For expecting mothers… my son came out sucking his thumb and loved it the first few days. Everytime I saw him I would replace with a pacifier. You can take away a pacifer later on much easier. You can not chop off there fingers.

  11. Sonya says

    great ideas!
    I wanted to add that after trying at age 5 & 6 & failing, I made a little “thumb-sucking basket” with my almost 7 yr old. By this point, she really did understand that it was best for her to stop sucking & she wanted to work on it (well, most of the time at least). We put nail polish, sweet smelling lotion that she picked, gum, a lovey (doll), & etc. When she wanted to suck her thumb, she went to the basket & chose something. At different times, different things worked (for example the lovey & lotion at bedtime) & eventually we rewarded her with a trip to build-a-bear which she earn with three weeks of no sucking. I know…we are tough…

  12. Katyo says

    we tried EVERYTHING with our 5yo daughter to get her to stop sucking her thumb. Bribery, logic, thumbguard, nail biting bitterflavor, etc. NOTHING worked, mostly because it was an ingrained reflex she was not able to overcome.

    We ended up going the “dental appliance” route in April, and after one very difficult night with lots of crying, we have been thumb free ever since. The dentist took a mold of her mouth and made the ‘appliance’ to fit such that the thumb does not make a satisfactory seal on the roof of the mouth. He recommended leaving it in for ~8 months or so, but I’m thinking we will take it out when she goes to Kindergarten in the fall.

  13. Kate says

    I actually just got my daughter, who’s four, to stop sucking her thumb with the reward of pennies… Yes, a mere 2 cents for naps, 4 cents at night, which came in at a total of around $.84 cents the habit is gone! Good thing for me she doesn’t quite know the full value of money yet!!

    If only I could potty train her younger son this easily… Now that would save a lot more relative to the cost of diapers these days!?!

  14. Kathryn says

    I was a thumb-sucker until the third grade, when my parents had the dentist put some kind of thing in my mouth… it had these ridges that came down and made it so I couldn’t suck my thumb. Before that, they had tried the nasty nailpolish, gloves at night, rewards… all sorts of things. The dental appliance finally worked where everything else had failed. This was a little under 20 years ago.

  15. Meg's mom says

    My daughter who is 4 1/2 recently stopped sucking her thumb with the incentive to have her ears piereced before kindergarten starts. I told her once the callous on her thumb goes away we will go. So far it’s been 3 days since I’ve heard her sucking it.