Oral habits: Practical strategies to get rid of them

By: Amber Fox, MS, CCC-SLP
Oral habits such as thumb or finger sucking and prolonged pacifire use can be very tricky to extinguish! Here are some helpful tips in tackling these unwanted oral habits.

  • Gather your team- make sure all caregivers are on board and following the same plan- consistency is key!
  • Start early- straw cups can be introduced as early at 6-9 months and can help transition away from bottles and sippy cups.
  • Make a firm decision and stick with it, lean on your team for support!
  • For Pacifier: eliminate gradually in the following sequence: eliminate during day/waking hours, eliminate at nap time, eliminate at bed time, gradually cut down the tips, give away pacifiers to family or friends who may be expecting.
  • For Thumbsucking or Fingersucking: Provide a toy/fidget to keep hands busy, get a special ring to wear; teach that the ring is a reminder to keep hands out of the mouth, place a sticker, bandage, or tape on the thumb/finger; wear gloves at bed time, paint nail(s), apply lotion on hands/fingers several times a day
  • For both: create a “no suck” zone, use a reward chart (positive reinforcement can go a long way), work with a speech therapist or occupational therapist to help with additional ideas
  • Source: How to Stop Thumbsucking (and Other Oral Habits): Practical Solutions for Home and Therapy, by Pam Marshalla