Thumb sucking vs. dummy | Pros and cons

Posted on May 3rd, 2018

If you’re unsure about whether it’s better to let your child suck her thumb or a dummy, take a look at the pros and cons of both.

If you’re unsure about whether thumb sucking or a dummy is better for your little one, it’s important to look at the pros an cons of both. Thumb sucking is obviously simpler, but is it healthier in the long run?

The main benefits of dummies

  • A dummy can soothe your baby and help her get to sleep; if disturbed at night, she’s likely to start sucking it and drift off again to sleep.
  • Dummies can be sterilised; fingers and thumbs can’t.
  • Dummies are far less harmful to the dental occlusion (the contact between the teeth of the lower- and upper jaw) than sucking on fingers.
  • Sucking a dummy gives your child a sense of security and comfort.

Using a dummy responsibly

  • Avoid letting your child use a dummy as an instant remedy; rather try to find the source of your baby’s crying.
  • Try not to let your child use a dummy regularly; see it as more of a short-term solution.
  • Never dip your child’s dummy into something sweet; this can cause tooth decay.
  • If your child is still using a dummy when she starts to speak, try to discourage her from having the dummy in her mouth when she tries to talk.
  • It’s fine to fall back on it when all else fails, but it’s not a good idea to start off each day by popping a dummy into your baby’s mouth.

Choosing a dummy

  • Find a dummy that is soft but firm and cylindrical, with a round end to enable tongue cupping. This is the tongue’s ability to grip the dummy when it is in your baby’s mouth. Tongue cupping is very important for successful breastfeeding and speech development.
  • The round end of the dummy should reach the soft, high palate to stimulate sucking, as well as the limbic (emotional) system of the brain, which will release all your “happy hormones”. The limbic system is the “feel-good” area of the brain. Therefore, sucking will help to calm your baby when she is stressed.
  • Dummies that are too flat or too short can lead to abnormal tongue movement, which can be difficult to overcome during the transition to breast or bottle-feeding.
  • The dummy should have a big, soft shield to prevent your baby from swallowing it. The shield will stimulate all the nerve endings around your baby’s mouth and will assist with lip closure.
  • The dummy should be a single unit without any loose parts and should have a grip your baby can hold onto. This will support the hands-to-mouth and midline positioning, self-soothing and self-regulation actions, and help to develop the integration of the left and right brain.

ALSO SEE: 6 tips to wean your baby off the dummy. 

Thumb sucking

  • Thumb sucking is one of the first co-ordinated actions a baby can do. Most children outgrow this behaviour by the time they go to preschool, but beyond preschool it can become a problem – that is once permanent teeth start to come in.
  • Thumb sucking can cause malformation of the teeth and facial features. Therefore, it is important to help your little one stop sucking her thumb.

Tips to help your toddler stop sucking her thumb

  • Start by explaining to her why sucking her thumb is bad for her (that it will ruin her teeth by pushing them outwards and that she might need braces in future).
  • Give your little one extra attention and observe if anxiety is provoking the thumb sucking.
  • Dip her thumb into a harmless liquid that doesn’t taste nice – like vinegar or pickle juice – but don’t force her; rather ask for her permission first
  • and then explain to her why it’s for her own benefit.
  • Distract your child when you see her putting her thumb in her mouth. Try to engage her in an activity that requires both hands.
  • Offer small incentives to your child for each day spent without sucking her thumb.
  • Try a positive approach – if you encourage your child in a positive way with loads of praise, she can break the habit without shame or guilt.
Living And Loving Staff

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