Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking

pacifierParents often ask me for my thoughts on pacifiers. Some babies will just not console unless they are sucking on something.  These babies can end up living on mom’s breast and overfeeding (and sometimes making mom extremely sore and tired), or they find their thumb or fingers, or parents give them a pacifier.  Without some way to suck and self-console, some of these babies are miserable and very irritable. 


Key points:

1.   The need to suck to calm and soothe is normal and can start in the womb (many parents show me prenatal ultrasound photos with thumb in mouth).

2.   Toddlers who are very oral (everything in the mouth) tend to get sicker – especially if they are in day care.

3.   It’s easier to get rid of a pacifier than a thumb.

4.   Prolonged sucking (pacifier or thumb) increases ear infections and can alter palate and teeth alignment.


My take on this is to try to avoid the use of pacifiers.  If however, your infant is finding their thumb and going to be a thumb sucker, it might be better to give them a pacifier since it’s easier to get rid of the pacifier around age one.  If your child becomes a thumb sucker (sometimes it is unavoidable), then there is nothing you can do about this until after age 3 when you can provide encouragement and incentives that might encourage them to drop the habit.  Any behavior you wish to get rid of (extinguish) must be ignored for toddlers.  The more attention you put on a behavior, the more it will happen (toddlers and young children live for attention!).

 Dr. Paul

Reply To This Post