Thumb or Pacifier?


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Thumb sucking is such a common way for babies to comfort themselves that it’s somewhat of a cliché. Babies have been comforting themselves, quite naturally, with their thumbs since the dawn of time. There’s nothing unusual, and nothing wrong, with babies comforting themselves this way.

Pacifiers are a bit of a newer development, but they are also a great way for your baby to sooth herself. Modern pacifiers, also called soothers or dummies in some parts of the world, have been with us since about 1900. Prior to that, any number of things were used for babies to suck on, made of everything from cloth to silver or coral.

Many babies and toddlers take comfort in sucking their thumbs or pacifiers. This is completely natural, and stems from a baby’s natural instinct to suckle when he is tired, hungry, or stressed. Most infants fall to sleep suckling, and even when they are older, sucking naturally helps them to soothe them. Of course, if a baby or toddler was fed every time they needed to be soothed, it would make them sick. That’s where the pacifier or thumb comes in.

As your baby gets older, if she continues to suck her thumb or pacifier, it is nothing to worry about, at least not until preschool age. Most dentists agree that no permanent damage is done to the teeth or jaws from thumb sucking until age 4 or 5, and the overwhelming majority of children have stopped sucking their thumbs by then. Of the children who continue to suck their thumbs, studies show that the common denominator is a strong parental attempt to make them stop before they were ready to. So, unless your toddler is still sucking his thumb or pacifier after his fourth birthday, don’t worry about it. If it does continue beyond that, your pediatrician can offer some helpful tips to help him stop.

But if your baby is going to suck on something, which is better for her? Her thumb or a pacifier? There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Her thumb is right there whenever she needs it. No need to put it in her mouth for her. If you have a baby who naturally sucks their thumb, there’s no need for you to be constantly popping a pacifier in her mouth. On the other hand, children who suck their thumbs sometimes prolong the habit longer than those who use a pacifier. Maybe this is because parents can control when to take the pacifier away. Another benefit to consider about pacifiers is that recent studies have shown that giving a baby a pacifier at nap time reduces the chance of SIDS.

Ultimately, neither is harmful to your baby’s teeth as long as use is discontinued by age 4. And ultimately, your baby will choose whether she wants to suck her thumb, a pacifier, or both. Either one is a good, safe choice to help baby soothe herself.



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