Pacifier vs. Thumb

As every parent knows, babies don’t come with instructions or ready-made ways to solve parenting issues. But you don’t need a manual to know that the pacifier vs. thumb debate is a hot topic among mothers and fathers everywhere. Some parents strongly believe that the thumb is a more natural way to go, while others insist their child learn to take a “binkie.”

Regardless of which side of the debate you fall, make sure you know what the advantages and disadvantages of each one are. And remember that despite your best efforts to get your child to take either her thumb or the pacifier, your daughter’s got a mind of her own and she will use it! In the end, you should go with what seems most comfortable and natural for your child. Ultimately, it’s her choice.

Bravo for the Binkie.

Advantages: 

  • Orthodontically Advantaged. The pacifier (aka Binkie, Lovie, Paci, Tee-Tee etc.) is typically the soothing method that dentists recommend because it tends to cause fewer issues with tooth development.
  • You’ve got Control. Parents can control when their child uses the pacifier. For example, you can give it to her at naptime and nighttime whereas a thumb is with her all the time.
  • SIDS Reduction. American Pediatric Association (APA) recommends that infants use a pacifier up to 1 year of age. This recommendation stems from the latest medical research that has found using a pacifier may decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), also known as crib death.
  • Just “Loose It”. When your child reaches the age (usually around ages 1-3 years) when it’s time to give up the binkie, it’s much easier to toss a binkie than a thumb!

 Disadvantages:

  • Forget it Mom! No matter how hard you try, some babies just won’t take a pacifier. Each baby has her own unique personality, so don’t force it if she absolutely refuses.
  • Habit Forming. Parents often get lulled into a false sense of security when it comes to the pacifier. Even though they are usually easier to “get rid of” than the thumb, expect some (or lots of) resistance to giving it up. Plan for a transition period or go cold turkey (wait until you feel the time is right and tell her something like “that binkie fairy has taken them to other babies who need them.”). She’ll get used to the idea eventually.
  • Dangerous. If you decide to go the pacifier route, it’s important to proceed with caution. Pacifiers should never be worn around an infant’s neck or tied to them as this may cause a choking hazard and may cause death. Pacifiers should also never be sweetened as this can cause tooth decay. So, be sure to use them safely.
  • Yucky Germs. Children tend to drop their pacifier often and put it right back in their mouth regardless of where it’s been.
  • Breastfeeding Blues. Pacifiers can lead to “nipple confusion” if used to early. Breastfeeding should be well established before you offer your newborn a pacifier.
  • Ear Infection Ouches. Evidence suggests that children who use pacifiers over the age of 1 year may be more prone to develop middle ear infection than those who do not.

Thumbs-up for the Thumb.

Advantages:

  • Breastfeeding Benefits. Thumb sucking doesn’t appear to interfere with breastfeeding.
  • No Nighttime Noises. She’ll be able to find her thumb in the middle of the night to self-soothe as opposed to screaming (and waking you up) when she can’t find her pacifier. That means MORE SLEEP FOR YOU!
  • Accessible and Unforgettable. No more “forgetting” the pacifier when you go to the mall– her thumb is always available.
  • It’s O’Naturel. Thumb sucking is a familiar, natural reflex in babies. Ultrasounds have shown babies sucking their thumb in the womb.

Disadvantages:

  • Naughty for Teeth. Thumb sucking, if continued later than age 4-5, can develop dental issues like the need for orthodontics
  • Can’t Toss It. Her thumb is firmly attached to her little hand (we’re sure you noticed) so you can’t take it away when you want to.
  • The Teasing Factor. Children risk being teased at school if they continue to suck their thumb.
  • Tough Habit to Break. Unlike the pacifier, weaning your daughter from her thumb takes lots of patience and practice.