Pacifier or Thumb?
Welcome to one of the greatest debates in parenthood – should you give baby a pacifier to help soothe him, let him suck his thumb, or discourage both? The true answer depends on a lot of factors, but mainly boils down to your patience level. Are you willing to put up with an unhappy baby for a bit longer, or do you want relief now? And are you willing to go through the pains of breaking either habit down the road?
The Thumb Argument
Some babies just naturally find their thumbs (or fingers), and many researchers believe that this is their own way of soothing. So once they get used to sucking their thumb, should your replace it with a pacifier? It depends on your personal preference. Pacifiers are less likely to cause teeth problems whereas thumb sucking can lead to an overbite if it continues too long. The pacifier is probably more sanitary, but if baby has already learned to soothe themselves you may not want to transfer this ability to an external object.
While pacifiers can become a habit that needs to be broken, most children give up thumb sucking before they are a few years old. You never have to remember to carry a thumb with you, so your child has the ability to settle himself down whenever he wants.
The Pacifier Argument
Some babies are just naturally fussy. They fret, kick, cry, and will not settle down. Many parents find that to just get some rest they need a pacifier to help baby go to sleep, otherwise they would never get any. Pacifiers offer a simple solution to soothing baby quickly, but they do have their drawbacks.
The primary drawback is that the pacifier soon becomes something that baby relies upon to soothe, instead of learning to soothe themselves. They may start to wake up at night when the pacifier falls out, interrupting the sleep of everyone in the house. Parents also find that the pacifier is an “easy” fix for fussy babies, so soon baby gets the pacifier all the time and will not be happy without it. This becomes a hard habit to break and can lead to frustration down the road.
If you do decide to use a pacifier, consider the following few tips:
- To avoid nipple confusion, a pacifier should not be introduced until baby is breastfeeding well, or about 4-6 weeks.
- Pacifiers should only be offered at naptime and bedtime, and if possible, baby should not fall asleep with the pacifier in his mouth.
- Once baby is about 6 months old, the pacifier should be restricted to crib use only.
Whether you choose the thumb or pacifier it is important that they don’t become too much of a habit. If baby is fussy, try a cuddle, song, or distraction before offering a pacifier or encouraging the thumb – it will pay off down the road with a happy, healthy, and able to self-soothe baby.