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Thumbs, Fingers, and Pacifiers

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All babies are born with the need to suck. This is important because babies need the sucking reflex to eat and drink. Sucking for some babies also can have a soothing and calming effect. However, when does sucking become a problem?

Read on for information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about?pacifiers, when pacifier use and thumb and finger sucking could become a problem, and how to help your child stop pacifier use or?thumb or finger sucking.

What do I need to know before offering a pacifier?

If your baby wants to suck beyond what ?nursing or bottle-feeding provides, a pacifier may satisfy that need. Before offering a pacifier, keep the following tips in mind:

What should I keep in mind when shopping for a pacifier?

When do pacifier use and thumb?and finger sucking become a?problem?

If your child sucks strongly on a pacifier or his?thumb or fingers beyond 2 to 4 years of age, this behavior may affect the shape of his mouth or how his teeth are lining up. If your child stops sucking on a pacifier or his thumb or ?fingers before his permanent front teeth come in, there?s a good chance his bite will correct itself. However, if the bite does not correct itself and the upper adult teeth are sticking out, orthodontic treatment may be needed to realign the teeth and help prevent broken front teeth.

How can I help my child stop her pacifier use or thumb- or finger-sucking habit?

As a first step in dealing with your child?s ?sucking habits, ignore them! Most often, they will stop on their own. Harsh words, teasing, or?punishment may upset your child and is not?an effective way to get rid of habits. Instead, try the following:

The good news is that most children stop their?sucking habits before they get very far in?school. This is because of peer pressure. While your child might still use sucking as a way of going to sleep or calming down when upset, this is usually done in private and is not?harmful. Putting too much pressure on your?child to stop may cause more harm than good. Be assured your child will eventually stop?the habit on her own.

The information contained in this publication should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. The persons whose photographs are depicted in this publication are professional models. They have no relation to the issues discussed. Any characters they are portraying are fictional.