No More Thumbsucking

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Eva Amurri shares her daughter, Marlowe's, update on sucking her thumb

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about Marlowe’s thumbsucking. Over the years, I had shared different snippets on social media that showed Marlowe sucking her thumb, and as she got older I received tons of questions about it. How did I feel about her sucking her thumb? When was I planning to make her stop? And, of course, everyone and their Mother (literally) would reach out to share the tips and tricks they used to get their child to stop sucking their thumb. I ended up writing a blog post all about Marlowe’s thumbsucking, because I felt that it was one of those things that people don’t really share openly about– and that sometimes those things are exactly what needs to be discussed. I felt so much more empowered hearing lots of mom’s perspectives on their own children’s journey’s with thumbsucking, and I know that my own perspective helped give context or comfort to other people’s concerns or plans as well. I also shared because I didn’t feel very motivated to make her stop.

While I had always planned to cut out the thumbsucking at some point, when she was going into kindergarten Marlowe’s entire world changed. She moved houses, her parents got divorced, she was expecting a new sibling…and then the pandemic happened. The “right time” to encourage Marlowe to give up the habit just didn’t seem like it was ever upon us. With so many changes and lots of fluctuating emotions happening, I really wanted her to keep that outlet that made her feel safe and secure.

Then, after Ian and I got engaged (and as we were preparing to move out of our home and into another), Marlowe suddenly seemed very grounded. She was making so much progress and it felt as though her maturity level was increasing and her anxiety was decreasing. I talked with her therapist who agreed that we should probably make the transition sooner rather than later– and definitely before we were IN the new house and all adjusting to that big change. We spoke about it for a couple of weeks with her therapist, and Marlowe herself agreed that she was ready to do it.

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The hardest part about giving up the thumbsucking? Giving up her Lovey. She had had her Loveys for as long as she could remember, and even longer. There were two or three “favorites” with her favorite one being Horsey, who was (shockingly) a light pink Horse blankey. Basically, any ailment, heartbreak, or frustration that Marlowe had, her loveys could fix. Any tears would immediately cease as soon as Horsey was in her hands. Marlowe only ever sucked her thumb while holding one of her Loveys. She NEVER put her thumb in her mouth otherwise and had completely associated the two. As much as I wanted her to be able to hang on to her favorite Loveys when we tried to cut out the sucking, I knew that it would be impossible. The only way we could do it (and perhaps the simplest) would be to simply take away her thumbsucking “partner”. She and I were both heartbroken when we realized that was what would need to happen. The last thing you want to do as a parent is take away your child’s ability to self-soothe, but deep down I knew that the best tool I could give her would be to TRULY learn to self-soothe without a physical tool.

We had recently been to the dentist, and he gently communicated to Marlowe that her adult teeth were at a point now where they would be significantly impacted should she continue to suck her thumb. She and I talked about it, and she decided that she didn’t want to suck her thumb much longer, and then need braces for a longer period of time.

Marlowe chose the day we did it, and we agreed that she would get to go to the toy store and get whatever stuffed animal she wanted as a prize for giving up her thumb. It was so nice to have a replacement comfort item that she could snuggle with at night. She picked a big white tiger and was actually excited when the day came to say goodbye to her Horsey and her thumbsucking. There were definitely tears when I took all her Loveys and we said: “Goodbye for now”. I told her I’d always hang on to them in case she ever wanted to visit with them in a few years or hold on to them to show her own kids one day. And then, that was it!

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The beginning few weeks were basically like re-sleep training my child. She had the hardest time at night and would cry for her Horsey and tell us how much she missed him. I would make sure I was available at night those first few weeks to spend lots of time comforting her and checking on her periodically. I also gave her some Melatonin at night to help her get to sleep. She was also SUPER grouchy during the day. Not having that soothing technique was tough on all of us, and I could tell she was really wound up and needed the release that sucking her thumb gave her. I tried to keep her distracted and to make sure she got lots of physical exercise. Week after week, things got better and better. Sleep came easier, and the tears were less. She still sometimes will talk about Horsey and missing him, but she doesn’t miss sucking her thumb. I think the habit was a strong one, but she really was ready to quit.

Marlowe decided she wanted to share her Thumb Quitting journey with all of you today, in case there were any kids out there thinking about stopping their own thumbsucking! I asked her if she wanted to do a little interview to share what she’s learned through the process and how she feels, and she was totally for it! I hope this little Q&A can serve to take some of the fear out of the process for both parents and kids!

Marlowe’s Q&A


Me: What was Thumbsucking all about for you?

Marlowe: Just, like, comfort. And I loved snuggling with it. With Horsey.

Me: And tell me about Horsey.

Marlowe: I loved Horsey so much. Horsey is a horse blanket. I also had a kitty and a dog. Then I would hold them and suck my thumb. Really, like, at night and in the early morning. And sometimes when I was sad.

Me: How did you feel about stopping all of it before we did it?

Marlowe: Well, I was really sad, but I also knew it was the right thing to do.

Me: You were sad?

Marlowe: Yeah.

Me: Were you worried at all?

Marlowe: Yep, I was worried because I couldn’t sleep without him. At first, when I took him away, it was really hard but then it got a lot easier. I was sad, mad, and annoyed at first. I couldn’t sleep without my Loveys. But then after some days and weeks, I started getting better with it. And it was awesome to feel like I could do it without them.

Me: You were so amazing. I was so proud of you for just stopping like that! I know it wasn’t easy. Now that you haven’t sucked your thumb for a few months, do you feel any different?

Marlowe: Yeah. I still miss my Loveys, but now I feel more accomplished.

Me: There are a lot of other kids out there who suck their thumbs, and who might want to quit doing it but they’re scared or worried. Do you have any tips?

Marlowe: Yeah! If you’re sad, you’ll think about it a lot…but it will get better as time passes. And then you’ll feel really good about yourself for doing something really hard for you. And your parents will be so proud of you for doing it too. If you’re having a hard time at night, maybe ask your parents for a new stuffed animal to snuggle with and replace the thoughts. That helped for me.

Me: The other day, you were telling me that if you ever put your thumb in your mouth now to test it, it feels weird. Can you tell me more about that?

Marlowe: It feels weird now! It doesn’t feel normal. Even if you WANT to suck your thumb, after a week of not doing it, it doesn’t feel normal anymore.

Me: Well, I’m super proud of you. It’s not easy to break a habit. Any advice for parents?

Marlowe: Just to be open-minded. Everyone needs to be ready for big changes.

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Photographs by Julia Dags | Copyright © 2023 Happily Eva After, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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  1. Alexa says:

    This feels like a super private, intimate part of Marlow’s life and I really hope you realize that, even though you asked her permission this time to share the weaning experience, that you didn’t ask her the first time, nor could she really reply at that time since she was not aware of the ramifications of sharing such a thing online (whether she’s aware now as a 7-year old is also debatable).

    07.28.23 Reply
    • Summer says:

      Please stop. You don’t know Marlowe or Eva, nor what’s best for them and their family. The mom-shaming and judgment from afar is exhausting.

      07.29.23 Reply
    • Anne says:

      She is not 7. Her ninth birthday is coming in about one week.

      07.29.23 Reply
    • Megan says:

      She isnt seven, Karen. I mean Alexa.

      Big step for Marlowe and good for her for doing it on her timeline!

      07.29.23 Reply
  2. Cat says:

    Sweet girl you are inspiring. Giving up something like that is really hard and trying to find a new way to do something isn’t easy either. You are such a strong girl with so much heart. I can see that in just the bits your Mama shares with us all. Making big decisions like these are never going to be easy and you did it in your own time and your own way.
    Lots of love kiddo!!!!

    07.28.23 Reply
  3. Glenda says:

    So proud of Marlowe. Such a big girl! ♥️

    07.28.23 Reply
  4. Taylor says:

    Thank you for sharing! My 3 year old daughter and I have been discussing her thumb sucking and when she’d like to quit. It’s nice to hear about other fellow thumbsuckers. I think she will enjoy hearing about Marlowe and how she stopped.

    07.28.23 Reply
  5. Stephanie Zinmer says:

    Tell Marlowe I am sooo proud of her!! I was a thumb sucker until I was 13. My lovey was a blue blanket. One day I said enough and took my lovey to the dumpster. I cried for weeks, but never sucked my thumb again.

    07.28.23 Reply
  6. Nicola says:

    Amazing and nice to read about this journey for you all. My daughter was also a thumb sucker until 9 years and only when she too had her Lovey – a penguin soft toy. She ended up stopping because we misplaced in a house move! She cried for 1-2 nights because no one could remember who packed or lost the toy. We later found it by accident after 9 months and now sits on her shelf with many funny stories, including when she couldn’t do a sleepovers at her grandparents if she didn’t have it because she needed it with her thumb sucking.

    08.04.23 Reply
  7. Alex says:

    I love how you empowered Marlowe and helped her with this big change gently, encouraging her resilience!

    08.08.23 Reply