Ultrasound images of thumb-sucking babies? Off-the-charts adorable, no doubt about it. But visions of your babe still wanting to suck her thumb in the 5th grade? Well...that mental picture may raise your concerns about how to approach thumb and pacifier-sucking with your baby. You're not alone. Many Circle of Moms conversations debate the difficulty of breaking thumb- and pacifier-sucking habits, along with possible adverse dental effects. To help you make an informed decision, here we're rounding up all the basics in the thumb vs. pacifier debate.
Why do babies suck their thumbs or pacifiers?
Sucking on fingers and toys is completely natural baby behavior. Babies are hard-wired to suck on things for comfort and pleasure, even when they're not hungry. Some babies even suck on fingers in the womb.
Is thumb-sucking or sucking a pacifier bad for my baby?
"Thumb and pacifier sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long period of time," says the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). Babies use sucking to calm down or because it feels good, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If they're still sucking beyond age 3, consult with your pediatric dentist to assess whether the habit is affecting your little one's teeth.
Which is Better: Thumb or Pacifier?
- Which is an easier habit to break?
"The pacifier wasn't hard to break at all...and I might add our first son was extremely attached to his binkie," says Kristie M. Many moms suggested that the pacifier is an easier habit to break than thumb-sucking, and the AAPD agrees. After all, you can put a pacifier out of reach, but you can't exactly remove your baby's thumb!
- Which causes less dental problems?
The AAPD asserts that the "thumb, finger and pacifier sucking affect the teeth and jaws in essentially the same way." But, since the pacifier can be easier to stop, it has less risk for causing dental problems. Several Circle of Moms members also noted that there are pacifiers made specifically with orthodontics in mind. Others shared stories of finger sores and infections caused by thumb-sucking. "He sucked it so much he gave himself a blister," remembered Marla N., while Cory G. shared that her 16-month daughter had a secondary skin infection caused by thumb-sucking: "The doctor said it was from the skin cracking and her sucking on it."
- Which is a better self-soothing tool?
"There is nothing wrong with a little thumb-sucking; it teaches them to self-soothe themselves," says Crystal R. Many moms in favor of thumb-sucking argue that it enables a baby to soothe itself without your help.
- Which can protect against SIDS?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends giving infants a pacifier at the time of sleep as protection against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While the reason why it works is still unclear, the AAP reports that several studies have found compelling evidence that pacifier use during sleep is associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.
A Final Word: Your Baby May Decide For You.
Some babies have zero interest in a pacifier, while others essentially ignore their thumbs. Unless you're willing to work hard to change your baby's mind, your decision may be made for you. Just be sure to check in regularly with your pediatric dentist as your child gets older to ensure dental problems are kept at bay.
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