The Pacifier vs. The Thumb: A guide for parents

In soothing your baby, is the best option the pacifier or the thumb?

The Pacifier vs. The Thumb: A guide for parents

Sucking is one of the natural reflexes that infants have. In fact, they start sucking their thumb or their other fingers while still in the womb. This ability is necessary for newborn babies to procure milk without having to be taught.

Apart from this, sucking on thumbs, fingers and other objects such as pacifiers enable babies or young children to feel secure in his or her surroundings. It helps then learn about the world. Sucking keeps them calm and relaxed and even helps them go to sleep.

As a parent, you might be concerned about whether using his thumb or the pacifier is really beneficial or harmful to your baby. In the battle between the pacifier vs. the thumb, which one is the better option?

Dr. Juan Luis Camara Singson, MD, a pediatrician at the Awakenings Toward Natural Healing clinic, says that thumb sucking or using pacifiers are actually not necessary. However, if you must, he suggests that you refrain allowing your baby from doing so at the early stages of infancy because this can interfere with breastfeeding.

So that you can make an informed decision between using the pacifier or the thumb, we listed down the pros and cons for each option.

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Pros of Thumb Sucking

  • It is free.
  • It is convenient and readily available to your child. Compared to the pacifier, your baby can easily find his thumb even in the dark.
  • It comforts your child.
  • The thumb is not made up of any harmful chemicals.

Cons of Thumb Sucking

  • It can cause dental problems in your child if thumb sucking is not stopped by the age of four.
  • If your child’s fingers aren’t kept clean, thumb sucking can cause germs to spread in his or her mouth.
  • It may be difficult to wean off.


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Pros of Using Pacifiers

  • It comforts your child.
  • The pacifier can protect against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • You can control when your child is allowed to use the pacifier.

Cons of Using Pacifiers

  • Pacifiers can be costly.
  • Some pacifiers can contain harmful materials, such as Diisonyl phthalate, which has been linked to cancer.
  • They can cause ear infections.
  • They can disrupt breastfeeding and cause infants nipple confusion.
  • It may be difficult habit to break.


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A lot of parents think that allowing their child to suck his thumb or to use a pacifier will teach him to self-soothe. However, Dr. Singson says that “Self-soothing is an outdated principle, and current research has shown that babies simply cannot self-soothe. They instead learn not to expect any help when they are suffering, and this can be a very traumatizing and harmful thing.”

The best way to bond and comfort your baby is for you to hold and nurture him. According to Dr. Singson, deciding between using the pacifier or allowing your child to suck his thumb should not be an issue and that neither should be made a substitute for holding your child.

Instead, explore baby weaning, giving your baby a relaxing bath or playing music. Learn about the alternatives before you make the decision between using the pacifier or the thumb.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Janice Lim
ABOUT THE EXPERT: Dr. Juan Luis Camara Singson

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