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Pacifiers, Thumb/Finger Sucking

The need to suck is natural and it offers your baby comfort.  Most children have some method of soothing themselves and grow out of it naturally.  Some children suck their thumb or finger.  A pacifier may be preferable as recent evidence suggests a decreased risk of SIDS (crib death) with their use at bedtime.   

For breastfed babies, a pacifier should not be introduced until breastfeeding is well established (4-6 weeks).  Not all babies are interested in using a pacifier.  Check to see if your child is hungry, tired or bored before offering a pacifier.  See to those needs first with food, bed, cuddles or play.

Tips For Safe Pacifier Use

  • Choose a one piece design
  • Wash before its first use and frequently with soap and water, rinsing well before giving to the baby.  Look for dishwasher safe pacifiers
  • Check for cracks and tears – replacing as needed
  • Avoid “cleaning” by putting it in your mouth.  This will pass germs that cause tooth decay to the baby
  • Never dip a pacifier in any sweetener such as sugar or honey, this can lead to tooth decay
  • Never tie a pacifier around your baby’s neck, your baby could be accidentally injured.

When to Stop the Sucking Habit

By the time a child is two or three they have less need to suck.  Most children stop the sucking habit by simply growing out of it.   The child should stop before the permanent teeth come in around the age of six.  If a child keeps sucking a pacifier or thumb/finger it may cause problems with the way the jaw and teeth grow.

Helping Your Child to Quit

Praise and reward your child with stickers on the calendar for daily “big girl/boy” behaviour.  The more attention a child gets for being “grown up”, the more they will want to be grown up.

Resist pressuring as this often leads to rebellion and delay in breaking the habit; the child must be motivated to quit and decide they want to quit.

Keep your child busy with activities that occupy their hands or mouths like puzzles, blocks, catch, singing, playing a musical instrument, etc.

Suggest that your child make a fist with the thumb tucked in when they feel the need to suck.

Use a secret code as a reminder to stop sucking. Discuss the problem with your Oral Care Provider.

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