Baby's health

Thumb or Pacifier?

If you had the choice which one would you prefer that your child use?

Baby soother

Realistically you would hope that they would be able to soothe themselves without any help from the thumb or pacifier. Looking around at the babies I see at the mall and the grocery store, this isn’t happening.

In the NICU, we had no choice but to introduce our son to the pacifier at a young age. We were told by the nurses that he needed to be taught how to suck and the pacifier would prepare him for feeding. At 1 lb and 5 ounces he had the smallest little paci in his mouth that you would ever see. With a butterfly on top of it to boot!

Lucky for us he was a pacifier just to get me to sleep kinda guy. He gave it up for his thumb quite a few months ago. At first we thought we had been blessed. Everyone’s met a 4 yr old that still waddles around with their soother in their mouth. The thumb was then quickly replaced with his index and middle fingers, that he sucks on together. Still a good thing – at least he can’t loose his finger, and they’re free. Well maybe not.

Even though the pacifier tends to look goofy always stuck in their mouths, it may be easier to break. You can, after all, just get rid of it! That thumb can always sneak its way back in.

Some kids have been know to secretly suck their thumbs before bed well into grade school causing the dentist many years of hard work.

Here are some tips to help break your little one of each habit!


  1. Be positive. Nagging and scolding will make the child feel guilty and likely encourage the habit to continue.
  2. Affirm that your child is growing up. Recognize the adult behaviors that your child has accomplished such as toilet training, dressing self and learning new skills. This will encourage your child to leave babyhood habits.
  3. Force doesn’t work. Find ways for your child to be motivated.
  4. Offer incentives.


  1. Limit boredom. Many toddlers want their pacifiers when they’re bored. You can reduce their daily sucking time by keeping the pacifier out of sight and keeping them actively involved in play or games.
  2. Keep her mouth busy. When she reaches for the pacifier, ask her a question, encourage her to sing a song, request a kiss.
  3. Deal with her other needs. Don’t use the pacifier as a baby-sitter to keep your child quiet and calm. If she’s whining or demanding, deal with the situation that’s upsetting her without reaching for the pacifier.
  4. Don’t translate communication garbled by the pacifier. With a pacifier in her mouth your child may speak words you can’t understand or she may get in the habit of pointing and grunting at objects she wants. Explain that she’ll have to remove the pacifier if she wants you to understand her. Less frequent use of the pacifier will encourage greater language development.

NOTE: If you are absolutely at your wits end with the thumbsucking, the Othodontist can fit your child’s mouth with a “crib” that will stop their habit in one day. It has a cost of about $300.00 and will take a few appointments to make sure it fits properly, but it works.


About the author

Lisa Arneill

Mom of 2 boys and founder of and World Traveled Family. When I'm not running around after my boys, I'm looking for our next vacation spot!

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