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Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Thumb-Sucking Versus Pacifier Use

Thumb-Sucking Versus Pacifier Use

Overview

Many parents of a thumb-sucking infant question whether they should substitute a pacifier for the thumb. So far, research does not show that one is preferable over the other. Also, although parents can encourage a child to suck a pacifier rather than a thumb, they can't control which the child will prefer.

The advantages and disadvantages of pacifier use and thumb-sucking aren't always entirely clear. So there are some general issues for parents to think about.

The advantages of using a pacifier include being able to control when your child is allowed to use it and being able to take the pacifier away when it is no longer appropriate. But a young child who uses a pacifier may be more likely to get ear infections.

An advantage of thumb-sucking is that it may not interfere with breastfeeding. And children usually stop on their own between the ages of 3 to 5. But if thumb-sucking is a habit past age 4, the child may develop dental problems. Also, it may be more difficult for a child to stop thumb-sucking than using a pacifier.

Talk to your doctor about how long you should wait before you introduce a pacifier to a breastfeeding infant.

Keep in mind that there is no reason to encourage thumb-sucking or pacifier use in infants who do not show a need. The sucking instinct in these infants is satisfied through breast- or bottle-feeding.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

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