Many parents of a thumb-sucking infant question whether they should
substitute a pacifier for the thumb. So far, research does not show that
one is preferable over the other. Also, although parents can encourage a
child to suck a pacifier rather than a thumb, they can't control which the
child will prefer.
The advantages and disadvantages of pacifier use and
thumb-sucking aren't always entirely clear. So there are some general issues for
parents to think about.
The advantages of using a pacifier include being able to control
when your child is allowed to use it and being able to take the pacifier away
when it is no longer appropriate. But a young child who uses a pacifier may be more likely to get ear infections.
An advantage of thumb-sucking is that it may not interfere
with breastfeeding. And children usually stop on their own between the ages of
3 to 5. But if thumb-sucking is a habit past age 4, the child
may develop dental problems. Also, it may be more difficult for a child to stop
thumb-sucking than using a pacifier.
Talk to your doctor about how long you should wait
before you introduce a pacifier to a breastfeeding infant.
Keep in mind that there is no reason to encourage thumb-sucking or
pacifier use in infants who do not show a need. The sucking instinct in
these infants is satisfied through breast- or bottle-feeding.