Best way to heal a thumb-sucker’s dry, cracked thumb? Talk amongst yourselves.

Amazon: Aquaphor Baby To-Go Pack, two .35-Ounce Tubes (Pack of 3)Thumb sucking is in its own special category of Parenting Issues That Drive Us All Crazy. It's not that thumb sucking is so terrible — some babies suck their thumbs in utero, after all — it's just that it tends to cause a number of complications.

Case in point: dry winter air + constantly-damp thumbs = cracked, painful skin. Adam's wondering what other parents have done to speed healing:

My newly-toddling son is a very stubborn thumb sucker. For the moment, we're ok with him sucking his thumb, but it's that time of year when skin dries out and the sucking easily exacerbates the problem to the point where the skin is dried and cracked.

We've consulted our pediatrician and while he did have some advice (antibacterial soap, Neopsporin, gauze and tape to help heal, and then once it's healthy use olive oil to moisturize as it's edible), trying to get a 1 year-old to leave his prized thumb trapped under gauze and tape is a losing proposition.

Any advice for helping to get through the healing phase?

Amazon: Nexcare Waterproof Clear Bandage Assorted Sizes, 50-Count Packages (Pack of 4)Sigh. Both of my kids sucked their thumbs, and my answer is going to sound maddeningly like my response to Christina (whose toddler is throwing stuff into the toilet): this was a phase we just had to get through. What else can you do when your kid is too young for reasoning?

Like your son, my kids wouldn't tolerate thumb guards or other coverings for long. I carried around a washcloth and wiped their thumbs when I could. I dabbed Aquaphor on the irritated skin in an attempt to keep moisture and dry air away. I covered the worst cracks with small waterproof bandages which I took off at night. It wasn't a perfect solution, but it was the best we could do.

Surely someone has better advice for Adam than mine. So, Parenthackers:

What's the best way to heal a cracked "thumb sucker's thumb?"

More: Hacks for thumb sucking


  1. Jenn says

    My kids never sucked their thumbs so I have no idea whether this would work – but what about Lanolin cream, usually used for cracked nipples during breastfeeding? More or less due to the same problem, no? Also safe for ingestion, as is used on an area that a baby would be (obviously) putting in their mouth.

  2. Rachel says

    Maybe get some special band-aids with a character that he likes and will want on his thumb? Maybe that the character would be “sad” to leave his thumb too early?

    Also, Burt’s Bees makes a Hand Salve that is amazing for dry, cracked skin. I believe, but am not 100% sure, that it is edible – not that you’d want to eat it, but that you could eat it if ingested. It only takes a tiny, tiny amount, which is good.

  3. Samantha says

    I put Lanolin on my infant daughter’s thumbs when they get chapped. It’s safe on her skin and in her mouth because there’s just no way to keep her hands out of her mouth.

  4. Jen G says

    I’m another fan of lanolin. I didn’t have to put it on a toddler – I used it when breastfeeding, too. Latching on made me cry, but lanolin was like a miracle worker.

    good luck!

  5. aprilshowers says

    My daughter is allergic to lanolin so, sadly, we can’t use that solution. I have found California Baby Calming Botanical Moisturizing Cream to work really quickly. Ingredients seem to be plant-based so I am not too worried about her ingesting it, but since it works so fast I just make sure I get the timing right! We are also potty-training so lots of hand-washing is contributing to the cracked-thumb problem.

  6. says

    I haven’t had this problem, but I wonder if cotton mittens would help—over vaseline, lanolin, olive oil, whatever. Just like some ladies moisturize their hands and then wear white cotton gloves to bed.

    I’m a fan of vaseline. It’s so cheap, and heals up my kids’ dry skin fast.

  7. says

    Our little thumb-sucker is teething, so now it’s turned into his finger(s) too. His poor hands are like sandpaper. :-(

    I heartily agree with the Lanolin comments – Lansinoh is probably the best brand you can get (and a lot of moms have it leftover from early BFing days). It is the best thing EVAH for dry skin on anyone – it’s a natural antimicrobial, stays on better than Aquaphor through repeated “suckings”, and we know it’s safe in little mouths.

  8. Lisa says

    Maybe I should look through all my nursing stuff for the old Lanolin tube. Sadly, I’ve taken to sneaking in her room at night after the thumb has popped out on its own (deep slumber) and slathering it with Aquaphor. Probably not the best solution, but it is working for now.

  9. Mary says

    We use the California Baby Calendula Cream. It heals and moisturizes. I’m not concerned about her ingesting it, we only use a little at a time and she only sucks her thumb at night.

  10. renee says

    Bag Balm is the only thing that helps my cracked fingertips in winter, and I don’t even suck my thumb. I have no idea if it’s edible or not, but presumably it doesn’t bother the calves.

  11. says

    My pediatrician told us to put a sock on her hand after she goes to sleep at night (and during naps). If you have a light sleeper that could make one problem become two. But, for us it helped at night sometimes. Then during the day we did a lot of band-aids. My daughter is obsessed with them. I would put lanolin on and then the band-aid. It wouldn’t last more than an hour, maybe two, but it gave the skin a chance to heal. My daughter is 2 1/2 and now we are having further problems due to thumb sucking in regards to speech. She is thrusting her tongue and say “th” for letters like f, s, and v. She’s too young to need speech therapy yet, and I don’t believe trying to get her to stop is helpful. It only makes them want it more. Hopefully she will outgrow all of this!

  12. says

    @Jana – I sucked my thumb til I was 5 or so years old. (Old enough to remember quitting anyway.) I like to think I turned out relatively well. ;-)

  13. says

    Hi Asha, I was going to add the lanolin cream tip, also. My kids didn’t suck thumbs (they had other issues!!) but I use lanolin cream on my cuticles and cracked skin every night. It’s like a little mini-manicure! It’s not just for breasts anymore :)

  14. Melissa says

    Another one here for the lanolin. We’re in the same boat where our girl is 2 years old, only sucks her thumb when she’s tired, but she has molars coming in, so all bets are off. Another option is coconut oil, which moisturized well and is antibacterial. I’m not sure I would put cotton mittens on her, though. 1) She knows how to get her gloves off. 2) Her hands would just stay wetter with the cotton being soaked.

  15. says

    I have absolutely no experience in thus department, but what about lanolin? They can digest it so if they’re still sucking, no problem. It worked for my nipple, why not for thumbs?

  16. says

    Another vote for Lanolin. Once you’re past nursing you probably forget all about it, but it works better than anything else I’ve tried. I use it not just on the thumb, but cheeks, to keep the drool rash on my 8 month old under control, and under his nose if he’s got a cold. It is kinda gross though. Our pediatrician also said a little cortisone 1% was ok when it got really sore looking but that always made me sort of nervous.

  17. says

    Thanks everyone for the Lanolin tip. So obvious that it never occurred to us. We seem to be out of the woods for the current episode but we’ve got it dug out of the nursing supplies and ready to use next time!

  18. Rachel M says

    I use Burts Bees lip balm. Seems to coat it nicely and I figure its edible! I try and put it on before he goes outside too

  19. Dave says

    Corn Husker lotion is really good and plain Vaseline works well. Both stay on well and don’t wash off right away. Neither seems to taste great so they may also help with the thumb-sucking.

  20. Jett says

    Bag balm is awesome! I rubbed it on our 3 year olds thumb right before bed, then I dipped her thumb in cayenne pepper. It only took 6 nights before the problem was solved…

  21. xuan says

    i don’t have a thumb sucker yet, but somehow our son gave up his binky about 2 months ago with no argument, fight, or withdrawal symptoms. for some reason though, he’s constantly biting or licking his lips and so the skin around his lips are red, cracked, sore, and peeling. i found that using hospital grade lanolin heals it pretty well, you just have to keep applying it, about 2-3 times a day.

  22. Sara says

    i use chap stick when it gets bad………i just rub a bit on and it helps

    i like the natural, unflavoured kind

  23. W says

    Superglue. My son had a split in his toe that he kept picking at. After applying the glue, he wasn’t able to pick it for a couple of days. Those few days were all that he needed to get it started healing. I’d imagine that it work the same with a split thumb.