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Let’s Talk Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking

Let’s Talk Pacifiers and Thumb Sucking

I get a lot of questions on how to wean a child off pacifiers and thumb sucking. Are these good or bad in the first place? Some parents are 100% for it others find the most revolting things on the face of the earth. So when they ask should they ditch the paci or figure out a way to prevent thumb sucking is say IT DEPENDS. Growing up I always heard my Mom and my Grandma say that a child should never be thumb sucking because that will ruin their teeth. They were all for the pacifiers instead but then again I recall how much of a fight my little cousin put up when my aunt wanted her to stop using the pacifier at four years old. So basically I grew up thinking neither were good.

When I had my first and second daughters the first thing that came to my head was to not bother buying pacifiers because I didn’t want them to use them. After two days with my eldest I was a changed woman. My husband didn’t know how fast he needed to rush to the store to get one. As my daughter wasn’t sleeping I thought having a pacifier would change that. It didn’t, but my daughter did like the idea of sucking on something 24/7. I didn’t mind the pacifier so much but I did hate having to get up every 5 minutes when it would pop out of her mouth and I needed to put it back in. So pacifiers are good…until you have to get up and put them back in. As she got older she was able to put the pacifier back in and I was a happy mommy. Unfortunately, that didn’t help her sleep better but it did help keep her quiet ;).

I only let her use her pacifier for naps and bedtime. And luckily she wasn’t the type of child that constantly needed to have her pacifier in her mouth. I just couldn’t bear the idea of her running around a playground with her pacifier in her mouth, it falling to the ground, her picking it up and putting it back in. Wait, I think I just had a black out thinking about it. That totally freaks me out. So she only requested it when she wanted to go to sleep.

Once she turned two and a half I thought it was time to get rid of the pacifier. At this age we could communicate well with her and so we were able to explain to her that Dora (the explorer) had a little brother and sister that were crying because they needed pacifiers. So we got an envelope and let her put stickers on it. We gave the paci a great big kiss goodbye and put it in the envelope. We walked to the mailbox outside and we let her put the envelope in the mailbox. That was the end of the pacifier. I admit the first three days after getting rid of the pacifier we did have some rough nights. She would take so much longer to fall asleep and she would cry for her paci. But we went in and explained to her that she’s made Dora’s brother and sister so happy with the pacifier. After a couple of days she settled and was able to sleep without it.

My son was a thumb sucker. He is almost 2 now and he started sucking his thumb around 5 months of age. At that time I had just completed my Child Sleep Consultant training and I had learned that children look for ways to self soothe. His way of self-soothing was to suck on his thumb. I did not try to discourage it because I wanted him to be able to fall and stay asleep without my intervention. During a family vacation this summer he suddenly just stopped. I call it my summer miracle. I expected a thumb sucker for life but apparently he had found other ways to self soothe. He likes to rub his head when he is going to sleep.

My advice to parents is it really depends on what you feel comfortable with. But then again it is difficult to stop a young baby from thumb sucking. At a young age I think it is best not to try to discourage it. Once your child is a bit older and can understand you better you can talk to him about it and use examples as cartoon characters that never thumb suck on TV. Or praise them when they are not thumb sucking. Also limit the amount of time thumb sucking to only when it’s time to sleep.

These are not necessarily bad things. It might just be what your child needs to self soothe. Keep in mind it is a phase and they will grow out of it.

 

Nicole Woodriffe
FSI Certified Child Sleep Consultant
Bedtime Sleeptime Infant and Child Sleep Consulting Services
Let’s turn bedtime into sleep time!

La Femme Administrator