Q: What's better, letting baby suck on his thumb or a pacifier?

A: Sucking on a pacifier or thumb are both fine ways for your baby to soothe himself to sleep, but if I had to pick one over the other, I'd go with pacifier. Although some moms may worry that using a pacifier can make breastfeeding more difficult, studies have shown that pacifier use doesn't cause early weaning, it's just more prevalent among babies who are already weaned. Thumb-sucking can lead to an overbite if it continues after your child's permanent teeth come in compared to pacifiers, which put less pressure on the teeth. And you've probably heard the saying "you can't take his thumb away" -- which means that thumb-sucking is a much harder habit to break than saying bye-bye to binky.

All that said, either thumb-sucking or pacifier use isn't a problem as long as your child gives it up before his permanent teeth start developing (usually around age 3). Although some children naturally give up sucking their thumb or needing a pacifier around age 1, many will need a little coaxing from you to quit completely.

Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.

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