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Pacifier or thumb?
Babies have a strong natural sucking reflex that they are born with. Some babies have been known to suck their thumbs in their mothers womb. The sucking action tends to soothe and comfort them, especially before a feed is due. It is a personal choice whether or not you decide to introduce your baby to a pacifier. Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of both thumb sucking and pacifiers.
- It can be used to distract a baby when having vaccinations, blood tests or other procedures which can cause pain.
- Helps soothe a baby when crying, between feeds, travelling etc
- If your baby has trouble sleeping, sometimes a pacifier can help to settle them.
- Recent research by the A.A.P. (American Association of Pediatrics) has found that babies who sleep with a pacifier have a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (S.I.D.S.). This may be due to the fact that because of the sucking action, the airway is kept open. Another theory is that the baby sleeps lighter because they are sucking and are less likely to roll onto their stomachs.
- They can be easily sterilised in a sterilising unit or put in a dishwasher.
- They come in various sizes, and can be used as early as newborn.
- Easily disposed of - when you decide that it is no longer required, it can be thrown away.
- Your baby could become dependent on the pacifier and may refuse to sleep without one.
- A baby may wake from sleep and cry during the night if the pacifier falls out of his/her mouth.
- Normal use of a pacifier during the first few years causes no problems, but if used for a prolonged period of time, could lead to dental problems. It can cause the child's upper front teeth to be pushed outwards or grow in squint.
- Research has shown that babies who use pacifiers run a greater risk of having middle ear infections. This is thought to be because bacteria from the back of the mouth travels up the Eustachian Tube into the middle ear, caused by the constant sucking action.
- Some researchers say that babies who have pacifiers from an early age could breastfeed for less duration and are likely to have more problems breastfeeding than babies who do not use a pacifier.
If your baby is not interested in a pacifier, don't force, wait and try again a few hours later. It may be that he/she just has to get used to the silicon teat.
Always make sure that the pacifier is clean, sterilised regularly and kept in its plastic case when not in use.
It should never be dipped in anything sweet before putting into the baby's mouth, as this can lead to tooth decay, even if your baby has no teeth yet.
Never put the pacifier in your own mouth to "clean" it before putting it in your baby's mouth. I see this happen quite regularly and it really turns my stomach. It is simply just transferring the germs from your mouth into that of your child's. With the average adult having up to 1,000 different types of bacteria in their mouth, this is never a good idea!
Thumb sucking is a natural instinct and is very common amongst babies and small children. Most children stop sucking their thumb between the ages of 2 and 4 by themselves.
- Babies can calm and soothe themselves.
- Therapeutic for babies and they generally can get themselves off to sleep.
- Thumb sucking babies/children tend not to put other items in their mouths to "explore" them.
- Most children who do suck their thumb, tend to stop this at toddler stage when they are more mobile and active.
- Prolonged thumb sucking after the age of 4, can lead to dental problems as teeth are pushed out during the sucking action. It can lead to the front top teeth growing in out of alignment.
- In some cases, it can lead to speech problems as the child tends to push their tongue forward when talking.
- It can become a bad habit if it continues past the toddler stage and is more difficult to wean a child off the thumb than the pacifier.
Try to ensure that you regularly clean your baby/child's hands to reduce the risk of unwanted germs and bacteria entering their mouths.
Some babies never suck their thumbs or need a pacifier. Both my daughters as babies had pacifiers and were weaned off them at the age of two. They had no dental or speech problems and it wasn't really a big deal getting them to come off them. Your baby may make the decision for you and be a thumb sucker! There is no right or wrong and as long as there is not prolonged use of either of the methods, there should be no problems at all.