Skip to main content

Suck it Up: When and How to Pass the Paci and Put the Thumb Down

By Jill Feilmeier on October 21, 2014 in Kid's Health

when and how to stop your baby's sucking habits

You're running late. You're scrambling to meet a deadline. You're on the edge of your seat during a scary movie. We've all been uncomfortable. What do we do to soothe ourselves? We drink coffee. We bite our nails. We crack our knuckles. We all have habits that help us deal with stress.

Just like you, your baby needs something to soothe him or herself during moments of stress. Sucking their thumb and/or using a pacifier are two of the ways your little one seeks comfort.

A pacifier is a given for any newborn baby. But what happens when your baby enters toddlerhood? You can take the paci away, but your little one will always have their thumb.

While thumbsucking and pacifiers are perfectly natural, your child should stop both behaviors before or around age 3.

To wean your child from their sucking habit, it's best to begin before he or she reaches 24 months. Here's why – chronic sucking can cause children’s permanent teeth to become crooked.

Relax – don't start biting your nails yet! Here are some suggestions to stop pacifier use or thumbsucking:

  • Limit pacifier use to nap time and before bed. If your child is a thumb-sucker, start by ignoring the behavior.
  • Use a comfort item as a substitute. A soft blanket or stuffed animal are great ways to soothe your toddler during naps or times of stress.
  • Use a toy as a distraction. Place an obstacle in your little one's hand to keep their thumb out of their mouth. You can also try a sock or a glove.
  • Reward and praise your child for not using a pacifier or sucking their thumb. Positive reinforcement is an effective way to change your baby's habit.

Visit your dentist or pediatrician for more advice about how you can gradually phase out the habit and keep it from returning. Once your child puts the paci and thumb down, you'll be giving your tot two thumbs up!