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Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking

Find tips on how to make pacifiers and thumb-sucking a healthy habit that doesn't become a bad habit.
Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking

Pacifiers and Thumb-Sucking

Dads often think that a baby doesn't need a pacifier, but using a pacifier or sucking on her thumb or fingers isn't necessarily a bad habit for a baby. Many younger infants actually enjoy the security they get from this type of non-nutritive sucking, and it can be something that is healthy and normal and encouraged. It also can provide a calming or soothing effect for many infants.

The problem lies more with prolonged thumb-sucking or pacifier use. If a child continues to use a pacifier or suck her thumb past age three to five years, then it can affect her teeth and speech and language development.

E Alert

Recent reports have linked pacifier use with stopping breastfeeding early and with infants getting a lot of ear infections, in addition to the negative effects on your child's teeth and his speech. Don't let your infant use a pacifier too much or for too long.

Fortunately, most infants give up these habits well before they become a problem, often by age six to nine months. To help keep this healthy habit from turning into a bad habit, you might try one of the following strategies:

  • Avoid the types of pacifiers that clip on your baby's clothes, which makes it always available
  • Avoid giving the pacifier at bedtime, or quickly take it out of the baby's mouth once she falls asleep
  • Avoid letting your baby have a pacifier all day long
  • Make the pacifier less available once your baby begins to lose interest in it
  • Get your older infant attached to another type of security object, like a small blanket, instead of the pacifier
  • Don't be so quick to put the pacifier back in her mouth each time it comes out

If trying to break your child's pacifier habit is too stressful for her, it's okay to let her continue to have one. Since there likely won't be any damage to your baby's teeth unless she continues to use a pacifier after she is two to four years old, you don't have to be too aggressive at this age unless you begin noticing problems, such as a speech delay or tooth deformities.

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