Hubby and I are very avid researchers when it comes to making parenting decisions (really I’m the researcher then sharer and we make a decision together). Some things were not every really discussed, just assumed like the fact that I would breastfeed. Other things we’ve really had to consider the options and weigh the pros and cons before coming to a decision that was right for our family.

One of these such decisions arose when Honeybun was a few weeks old and began trying to suck her thumb. I knew she had a need for additional sucking (as many babies do) so delved into the pacifier vs. thumb debate. There are many people that are strongly one way or the other and though I leaned one way from the start I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything before making our decision.

Here are some of the main points in the pacifier vs. thumb debate:pacifier vs. thumb sucking, and click to printout our image:

Positives of Pacifier use:

Can be taken away from the child when parents are ready
Parents dictate when child is allowed to have pacifier

Negatives of Pacifier use:

Can be easily lost or forgotten
Early on parents are required to put pacifier in baby’s mouth if it falls out
Early on parent dictates when child needs pacifier
Can interfere with establishment of early breastfeeding
Can be used to comfort when baby is tired, scared, hurt but baby will usually cry first to signal the need for the pacifier
Young babies often can’t hold pacifier in so constantly spit it out unintentionally
You have to have many and buy new ones as pacifiers are lost or wear out
Can increase chances of ear infections
Can interfere with speech development

Positives of Thumb Sucking:

Will (most likely) never get lost or forgotten
Child can access and use fingers as she needs
Signals tiredness or other feelings (scared, hurt), often without crying
It’s Free
Older child can only use one hand while sucking so tends to not suck while playing

Negatives of Thumb Sucking:

Can not be taken away from child so habit may be harder to quit or last longer
Can cause chapping or blisters on skin or infections if sucking on an open cut/sore
Plus, both Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking:

Comforts baby and provides an outlet for normal sucking need
Can get dirty easily
Can cause tooth decay
Can cause misalignment of teeth with prolonged use
Something else to consider:

If a pacifier is taken away before a child is ready to give up the soothing sucking, s/he may switch to thumb sucking
With this information, we decided the thumb sucking route would be best for our family. A few reasons pushed us this way, the strongest being the “losing/forgetting it” factor. The second was hearing other moms complaining of having to get up 7 or 8 times a night to put the pacifier back in baby’s mouth, I like my sleep too much for that nonsense! I was also a thumb sucker myself until 5 or 6 years and had no issues with my teeth from thumb sucking.

So, we let Honeybun go at her thumb but she actually turned out to be a finger sucker (index and middle finger). She sucked her fingers whenever she was tired, hurt or scared until around the time we moved back to Florida. She had just had her 4th birthday and on a long drive to Orlando she fell asleep and I noticed she had not sucked her fingers. When she woke up I asked her about it and she told me “mommy, I don’t suck my fingers any more.” No struggle, no frustration, just done.h thumb sucking

Sugarplum didn’t show a sucking need until she was about 6 months old and wouldn’t self sooth to go to sleep nor would she fall asleep nursing. She would have happily taken a pacifier and perhaps I should have given in and done it to save some stress and drama but it eventually worked out and we’ve never had to worry about breaking the habit.

Both of my boys were avid suckers at birth and I was sure they’d both take to thumb or fingers sucking but neither ever did. Doodle’s favorite was to chew on a burp rag. We put it over his hands and he brought it to his mouth to soothe (and he still sleeps with a raggy draped over one shoulder). But Pipsqueak just sticks with the boob for soothing and puts everything else in his mouth for chewing and eating fun.

Where do you fall on the pacifier vs. thumb sucking debate? Which way did you prefer? What choice did you make for your little ones?