Pacifier vs thumb

Merry - posted on 01/26/2011 ( 38 moms have responded )




I hear many moms argue this decision, and usually it ends up a 'whatever works for you' sort of thing. But where do you stand on this debate?

The pros and cons I've seen are some like this


Pros- it can be taken away by the parent

It keeps the Childs hands free

Cons- it gets lost alot

You have to buy it, or them :)


Pros- it never gets lost

It's free

It's all natural

Cons- can't be restricted as efficiently

child only has use of one hand while sucking

Edit to add:


Pros- natural way to sooth

Healthy for jaws

Weaning happens easily along with weaning from the milk

Usually meets sucking needs so effectively that sucking never goes overboard

Cons- mom is the only one who can do it

Car rides could be tricky with a fussy one

I'm sure everyone else has other reasons as to why they chose one or the other, or both!

I'm not sure medically speaking which is preferred but I'd tend to lean towards thumb being dentally better just because it is the 'natural' choice.

Do you prefer your babies suck a pacifier? Or their thumb?

Do you limit their sucking? Do you have a rigid age rule as to when they must stop?

Anyone have links to some medical, psycological, or dental reasons for one or the other?


April - posted on 01/29/2011




I have given this a little more thought and I have a question. What about full time pacifier user verses part time thumb sucker? In that case, wouldn't the thumb be better? Also, I have noticed that children who are die-hard thumb suckers seem to have to take more breaks from pacifying themselves this way than their pacifer buddies...their thumbs get sore or they need their hand for something else. However, paci children/babies can use both of their hands...they don't have the sore thumb problem. Could we say that we can't really make a blanket statement about which method of pacifying is better because it's actually different for every child?

[deleted account]

Boob. Not that I had a choice in the matter. Pacifier would have been handy for those car-rides, but Nina just wouldn't take to it. At the beginning I actually tried to help her find her thumb, as I had read that that would help her to 'self-sooth'. Ah well, you learn... I think a pacifier is not recommended after the first year though. Something about speech development. Don't ask me where I read that.

Merry - posted on 01/26/2011




Danielle, it might be comforting to know that biologically speaking humans are designed to wean from the breast between 3-7 years of age. So, think about those ages when you think about her needing her thumb yet. She is only 4 and compared to the weaning ages she would likely still be breastfeeding. So try not to force the thumb sucking, she very likely does still need to suck at that age! Average weaning age world wide is 4 so most 4 yr olds are still sucking at moms breasts, so honestly her sucking her thumb isn't weird!
Stand up for her, try to protect her dignity but realize she might feel deep down that she needs to suck at times like bedtime or when she is sad or hurt.


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Pamela - posted on 02/08/2011




Let 'em suck their thumbs. I don't know what the big deal really is. They're tasty treats, especially if dipped in chocolate.

[deleted account]

Laura, in your case, I wouldn't bother him doesn't seem to be a problem. Roxanne is the same way with her soother. She uses it to fall asleep but it falls out shortly after.

Merry - posted on 02/06/2011




It seems Eric is quite safe with his thumb sucking, he only does it certain times and places, and in the night it falls out of his mouth after a few minutes, he sucks it when he is tired until he is asleep, and that's about it! I don't plan on making him stop at any time, cuz I think he will stop on his own if I don't turn it into a power struggle or an embarrassment thing.
I think making a huge fuss about it only makes them feel bad and then they want to comfort themselves by sucking more!

Jackie - posted on 02/06/2011




both my kids were nursed... my youngest was also a finger sucker, she put everything in her mouth tho. Poison Control became a regular call for a few years. My dau's dentist told me to help her break the habit of her finger sucking once she turned 3, it took almost a year for her to stop. She is 13 and her dentist thinks she will need a lot of teeth work later but because she has so many baby teeth that need to be pulled. I think it is wrong for school-aged children (5 yr plus) to have a pacifier in their mouth... laziness on the parents.

[deleted account]

Ok, it's me again.....I wanna make one more comment and then I'll shut up. Promise....for a lil' while anyhow. ;)

I don't think it's how long, or to what age the parents allow the child to use bottles or pacifiers etc., as it is to HOW they allow them to use them. Allowing a child to only use a pacifier at bedtime and making sure you brush their teeth before using it, or not allowing bottles in bed that are full of juice or milk, is more important than how old the child is, in my opinion anyhow.

[deleted account]

April, you asked, "What about full time pacifier user verses part time thumb sucker? In that case, wouldn't the thumb be better?"

IMO, in that situation.....YES! A part-time thumb sucker would be better than a parent who allows their child to have the soother whenever and wherever they want.

[deleted account]

Oh, P.S. - my brother sucked his thumb until he was 8-9 and he had to have major dental works....braces, retainers etc. They were a direct result of thumb sucking.

[deleted account]

**I** was Roxanne's pacifier until we stopped breastfeeding at 6 months. At that time she began sucking her thumb and I stuck a soother in her mouth. :)) Roxanne is now almost 2 1/2 and still uses it for sleeping. I practice proper oral hygiene and restrict her access. I'm responsible and educated about the pros and cons and I'm confident with my decision!


Merry - posted on 02/01/2011



This site references a statement from the aap saying that most kids will stop using thumb or pacifier between 2-4 years all on their own, but beyond therm the parent should help ease the process along.
They seemed to say thumb and pacifier have the same risk factors if used beyond 4 years.

Merry - posted on 02/01/2011



This link speaks about pacifier use and bottles, it doesn't mention thumbs, but I found it interesting that they recommend no pacifiers beyond age 3! I usually hear nothing past one or maybe two but 1800 dentists says three is the age to stop or drastically limit use of pacifiers.

Jayde - posted on 01/31/2011




My daughter had a dummy from ages 3-6months. Then she just kept throwing it away. All i've heard from dentists is how bad thumb sucking is for teeth development but my daughter never once tried to suck her thumb. Summer still gets her sucking though at night time for bed she's still on the boob, so thats her comforter (she's 21months old).

[deleted account]

I haven't read the previous posts yet, so this may have been said already. A common thing between the paci vs thumb debate is that they both (if habit is kept up until they have teeth) can actually be bad for their teeth and change the way the teeth grow in.

I gave my girl a pacifier a few days after she was born. Why? Because she constantly had her fingers in her mouth (unless she was feeding, and even then she tried to get them in there). I see it as, I can't exactly enforce her to not suck her thumb because I can't take it away nor can I control how much she sucks on it. So I chose the pacifier, and she starting to wean herself off of it.

Lacye - posted on 01/29/2011




Hate to say it but none of the above. But if I had to choose, boob! My daughter was on the pacifier and it drove me nuts trying to take it away from her. At least with the boob, I can control that more (and that is something my bf can't give back when I don't want them to have it!)

Merry - posted on 01/29/2011




I see that too, my friends son is the same age as Eric, Eric sucks his thumb, the friend sucks a pacifier.

When we are in the cars, both kids are sucking unless Eric wants to play with his cars then he takes his thumb out.

When we have playdates, Eric never has his thumb in his mouth unless he is on my lap asking to snuggle, but the friend has his in his mouth while playing for a long time, he even talks with it in there!

My friends son also has his pacifier in his mouth at the park, or the stores, etc Eric only sucks his thumb when he is tired, or hurt and then it's usually always while I'm holding him. So for Eric the thumb is connected to cuddles, but the pacifier kid uses it while he is wide awake, playing, talking, and fully entertained.

Personally, if my son was a pacifier kid, I would have it limited to the car, and bed, and in my arms after a year old.

I guess I only mind kids with pacifiers if they are using them when they are not tired etc..........

Christina - posted on 01/29/2011




It is a lot easier to break a child from a pacifier than a thumb or fingers. The easiest trick is to just poke a small hole into it that way it collapses when your kid sucks on it and they get mad and throw it away themselves. Two of my children were preemies and had to have pacifiers to help them learn to suck and swallow. I love the things. I can throw them away when I am ready to wean my child but that stupid thumb is soooo stubbornly attached to my kid. Last time I tried to throw a thumb away I was given dirty looks. *shrugs*

[deleted account]

My daughter didn't want either. She only wanted the boob and I don't plan on offering a pacifier with the next one. I sucked my thumb until I was almost 5. Yes, I did have braces, but so did my brother and sister and they did not suck their thumbs. My sister also had to wear head gear (and I think hers was way worse than mine). I have an amazing long term memory and remember deciding I didn't want to suck my thumb when I went to kindergarten so I stopped.

April - posted on 01/27/2011




If I had my way, my answer would be neither. Unfortunately, my son sucks his thumb as you can see in my profile picture! He only does it when he holds on to my hair (which he is also doing in the picture) . I'm pretty sure he would stop if I shaved my head.

Minnie - posted on 01/27/2011




Nope Adelaide doesn't suck a thumb or pacifier. If I have to be away she's well entertained.

LaCi - posted on 01/27/2011




I gave mine a pacifier once, and he thought it was fun to spit it out and play *fetch* with me. He thought it was hilarious that mommy would pick it up for him whenever he spit it out, so I threw it away, because that's annoying. He never sucked his thumb either. So I lucked out on both counts. he never had any real interest in either. Had he been into the pacifier, I probably would have let him have it. I'm not sure what age I would have feel a need to take it away. I'm not really all that stringent with ages. If he preferred his thumb, whatever works for him.

Meghan - posted on 01/27/2011




I tried to get him to use a soother when he was a baby but he wouldn't take it and he has never sucked his thumb. But he does suck on washcloths. It's a random thing- never to fall asleep or be comforted...I guess he just likes it. I have heard that it has the same dental affects as a soother?

Julia - posted on 01/26/2011




Pacifier every time. My sister when she is upset (truly upset) still sucks her thumb...she is 42. My God daughter is a thumb sucker at the age of 12. Her thumbs are constantly infected and her teeth are starting to buck out.

On the other hand my in laws neighbor walked into the house when I was visiting. She was 10 and had a pacifier in her mouth!!!! I was shocked.

Two of my three broke themselves of the pacifier. My oldest I broke her of it completely right after her second birthday. It annoys me to see a toddler talking with a pacifier in their mouths. Let alone thumbs. I would never approach a stranger and say something but I probably would shake my head and walk away. My Goddaughter on the other hand I will smack her hand everytime that thumb is in her mouth.

[deleted account]

But Laura, the nipple is a different shape than the thumb...the thumb causing more issues that may lead to dental problems. I'm all for parents encouraging their children away from sucking thumbs and pacifiers...not punishing for it, mind you.

Rosie - posted on 01/26/2011




i prefer the pacifier! :) my oldest 2 loved their pacifiers, but they were still fairly easy to take away when i wanted to. my youngest wouldn't take a pacifier and he likes his fingers. he is now 3 almost 4 still sucking on his fingers. sure it's only at nap or bedtime, or when he's tired, but i can't take his fingers away, lol! i have come to terms with it though, and just deal with it. he'll let it go when he wants to. as long as it's not all the time i'm not too worried. :)

[deleted account]

We made a choice not to use a dummy because I hate seeing babies with dummies, I like to see their faces (and it probably didn't help that my 3 yo nephew had a dummy in his mouth all the time). We have been really lucky though because Ethan doesn't suck his fingers or his thumb either, he did find both a few times but never consistently - the only time his hands are in his mouth are when he is teething and then everything is in his mouth.

We have found though that Ethan does suck his teddies arms and legs though to help him sleep (he has two teddies he uses) which we are perfectly happy with.

Sarah - posted on 01/26/2011




I sucked my thumb until I was 20yrs old!!

I would ALWAYS choose a dummy over a thumb every single time. In fact, when my youngest started putting her thumb in her mouth as a new baby, I went straight out and bought a dummy.

I had to have SO much dental work because of sucking my thumb. I had to have 3 teeth removed, then a fixed brace and a head brace at night for 2 years (the head brace was the most AWFUL thing ever!!) then a retractable brace for a year. At the end of all that, because I had still been sucking my thumb, they wanted to put a fixed brace back on, but I refused!!

A dummy can be taken away, and regulated, a thumb is always there, whenever and wherever.

So, yeah, I would choose a dummy every time :)

[deleted account]

That's true too, Lisa. I would not have survived if I were my girls pacifier, but I've always been my son's.... stubborn, little man was too smart to go for the binky. ;)

[deleted account]

Personal preference? Pacifier.... which is what my girls used. We limited usage by 18 months and removed them completely shortly before turning 2. My niece still sucks her thumb while sleeping and just recently stopped the daytime sucking.... and she's 6.

Danielle - posted on 01/26/2011




My son was a paci bby and my daughter is a thumb sucker. She broke herself from the paci at the age of two weeks. But now she's four and still sucks her thumb. You wouldn't believe the pressure I'm under to break her from the habit. It's so bad that ppl say something to HER and then it hurts her feelings and she starts to cry. I've had ppl tell me well if you'd pop her everytime she stuck it in her mouth she'd quit. I'm sorry but that's a comfort to her and I will not do that. Should I pop her for carrying her security blanket around and twirling her hair also? The ONLY reason I'm breaking her from it is b/c I'm tired of having to offend ppl when they say something to her. I'm talking even strangers! So I've tried everything and it didn't work. she LOVES my makeup and now I've made a deal with her that when she quits sucking her thumb I'll buy her, her own. So she's really trying. when I see it in her mouth I just remind her and she'll stop for a few mins. She only really does it if she's tired or upset. The selfish part of me doesn't want to see it end b/c it means she's growing up but the Mom in me knows that it will be better in the long run =(

Merry - posted on 01/26/2011




Lisa, I was counting on you to add that in!
Yes it is an option, it's the healthiest option, and the only con is mothers 'convenience' or car rides.
But does Adelaide suck her thumb if you are away for a few hours?

[deleted account]

I prefer the pacifier, or nunu as it's known around here. I never heard binky or dummy before COM!

Two reasons...
1. My sister sucked her thumb until she was 6. She had to wear head gear as a teenager.
2. My nephew was a finger sucker (and at 6 will sometimes still suck). He was started on the nunu but when he kept loosing it his parents allowed him his fingers for convenience. They wish they hadn't! When he was a toddler, his fingers stayed infected. My SIL tried controlling it by taping socks to his hands at night, using other means of comfort, etc. Nothing worked. For babies 2 and 3, she made them use the nunu as soon as she started seeing them get interested in finding their fingers. Both were off the nunu by 18 months, while big brother will still suck fingers.

Because of my SIL's experience, I pushed the nunu when I saw my daughter wanted to suck. She was rid of it for daytime use by the time she was a year old. She was rid of it for nap and bedtime when she was a little over 2. This was done on a "child-led but parent encouraged" basis.

As far as dental work, I didn't worry about the nunu affecting her teeth. There are no signs of any problems, according to her pediatrician. And because she only had it for sleep after she was a year old, it didn't affect her speech.

I know from past debates that there are some good links out there about this issue, but I don't feel like finding them. Maybe if this debate heats up I'll take the time to do so!

[deleted account]

You mean I was supposed to choose?!?! Damn... my kids must have pulled a fast one on me because they were the ones who chose which they prefered! lol. My 3 year-old was (and still is - UGH) a thumb sucker and my almost 2 year-old loved her binky.

We got rid of the yougest's paci last Novemeber (she was 21 months old) and we're still fighting the 3 year-old about her thumb. I let her suck it to get to sleep at night, but if I see it in her mouth any other time I lightly tap her hand, give her "the look" and she smiles at me and pulls it out. It's a work in progress though...

Merry - posted on 01/26/2011




Matt and I originally were pacifier parents, we figured that we preferred him suck on something we could control. We saw older kids with pacifiers sometimes and were dedicated to taking it away at an earlier age. We thought that thumb sucking might persist longer then we liked so we thought it would be best to use a pacifier so we could limit it.
So from birth to three months we did pacifier. Worked ok, but it was a pain to have to put it back in his mouth ALL the time when he dropped it.
So at three months we were told that his need to suck was gone and beyond that age it was a habit.
(we know better now)
So I took it away. I had been slowly limiting it for a few weeks and he didn't seem to have an issue with it being gone.
But then naturally he found his thumb!
He became a thumb boy and we realized how much more convenient it was, and we thought it was MUCH cuter then the plastic pacifier.
So we switched loyalties. And I started looking into it more and decided that we wouldn't try to limit his thumb sucking force ably. We never take it out of his mouth, we never tell him to stop. He really only sucks his thumb when he is sleepy and then it's a good solid cue that he is tired. Or hurt too I guess.
We don't have an age limit planned out, we think he will simply outgrow it probably sometime around when he weans from the breast. But honestly as long as it's only before bed or naps I don't see the issue!

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