Thumb sucking vs pacifier; The pros and cons you should know

Thumb or finger sucking is a normal reflex for babies trying to find comfort or soothe themselves.

But as a parent, you may worry when the sucking is prolonged.

You might begin to weigh in on whether you should substitute it with a pacifier or even find safe alternatives for your little one. But let’s look a little deeper on thumb sucking vs pacifier.  

If this is the case, you should develop a pros and cons list of thumb sucking vs. a pacifier. This article gives some deep insight into this, thereby easing your decision-making process.

What you need to know about using a pacifier

In cases where you need more than what nursing or bottle-feeding provides, it might be time to introduce a pacifier. Moreover, a pacifier can come in handy when you are trying to sleep train the toddler.

If you are worried about the risks of using a pacifier, below is a piece of information about its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of using a pacifier

Helps prevent SIDS

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is among the significant causes of child deaths.

But by using a pacifier on your infant, you can drastically reduce their risk of falling victim to this. Research studies show that using a pacifier reduces the risk of SIDS by 90%.

It is, however, still unclear how the pacifier works in reducing the risk of SIDS, but you can read a little more on when to stop worry about SIDS.

It helps to soothe your baby.

At times your toddler might become fussy and cry a lot. It is at this moment that you can use a pacifier to your advantage.

The pacifier helps control your baby’s feelings and distract them from whatever was going on in their minds.

Easy to get rid of

Pacifiers are only meant for early childhood development as adult teeth start developing as early as four years.

To avoid damage to the dental formula of your infant, you need to start weaning off the pacifier between 2 to 3 years.

Compared to thumb sucking, weaning off a pacifier is relatively easy since all you need to put it away.

Cons of using a pacifier

Nipple and pacifier confusion

If you are using a pacifier while still breastfeeding, you should be concerned about the possibility of nipple confusion and the likely preference over breastfeeding.

Plus it might also interfere with proper breastfeeding latching. It is because the baby uses different muscles to breastfeed and to suck a pacifier.

Even though breastfeeding is a natural process, it takes a while for a toddler to breastfeed effectively.

Therefore, to avoid any nipple confusion, you should use a pacifier once your infant has fully learned how to breastfeed.

Ear problems

Research studies show infants using pacifiers are more prone to ear infections than those who do not. How it comes about is, however, not clear.

Teeth problems

Continued use of pacifiers past the recommended timelines can significantly impact your infant’s dental formula.

The pacifier alters the orientation of the mouth and teeth as they might slant or tilt.

Suppose your child continues to use the pacifier past the age of four years. There is a possibility of irreversible damage to their teeth since the permanent teeth would have started developing.

Before that, any problem with teeth development can self-correct within six months of not using a pacifier.

Speech development may be affected

At the age of 2, your child is learning to imitate. That is when they also learn how to talk.

With a pacifier in his mouth, he might not be able to imitate the sounds effectively. Therefore, experts recommend that you start weaning it off between 18 to 20 months to avoid this.

How to use pacifiers

You need to follow the proper procedure when using a pacifier.

The following are some of the do’s and do not’s of using a pacifier:

Use the correct pacifier

Pacifiers often come in various sizes and shapes. It is, therefore, crucial that you find one that is appropriate for your child’s age.

When purchasing a pacifier, you should look for signs of loose parts to avoid posing a danger to your infant.

Additionally, it is not advisable to force a pacifier on the toddler; give them a variety and notice the one he likes most.

Ideally, you should constantly replace the existing one with a similar pacifier and, if possible, from the same retailer.

To be on the safe side, you can purchase more pacifiers.

Ensure you always sanitize

Infants below six months old have a delicate immune system. To reduce the risk of infection, you should always keep the pacifier clean.

After use, you need to wash it with clean water and soap.

Also, you should not put the pacifier in your mouth as most mothers tend to do since you can quickly spread germs to the infant, who might not handle it well.

Watch out for the timelines

It would help if you controlled how frequently the infant uses the pacifier to avoid any addiction.

On that note, you should not always offer the pacifier whenever the baby cries. It is essential to figure out the reason for the wails as many factors could cause this.

As the infant gets to 15 months of age, you can place the pacifier beside their bed and only allow them to use it during bedtime.

Once they fall asleep, please remove it from their mouth. As they get to 2 years, gradually replace it with stuffed animals.

What to know about Thumb sucking

Thumb sucking is a natural and appropriate behavior that allows for soothing and entertaining.

Being upset, tired, bored, or hungry are some of the emotions that trigger children into thumb sucking. It is not something to be concerned about during the early years.

But if the behavior lingers past two years, you need to start worrying. It is because thumb sucking is addictive and might continue if not controlled.

Pros of thumb sucking

The only advantage of thumb sucking is that thumbs are ever available; hence the infant can self-soothe any time they want.

Cons of thumb sucking

Thumb sucking is a challenging behavior to break, making it easy to turn into an addiction.

Secondly, it exposes your infant to a lot of germs. Your child might begin thumb sucking even without washing their hands.

Final thoughts on Thumb sucking vs. pacifier

Non-nutritive sucking methods such as thumb sucking and the use of a pacifier happen naturally for infants. It is nothing to be alarmed about unless it continues past four years of age.

Even though both of them cannot cause any psychological or medical problems when controlled, it is recommended that you encourage the use of a pacifier during the early years of child development.

In comparison, a pacifier vs. thumb sucking latter has advantages such as preventing SIDS and is easy to get rid of, which outweighs the pros of thumb sucking.

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