Heather Zimmerman, M.D.
Sucking on a pacifier, thumb or finger can be comforting for a baby. Many parents prefer the convenience of the thumb so they don’t have to scramble in the middle of the night or stop on the side of the road to retrieve a dropped pacifier. While both thumb or finger sucking and pacifiers are acceptable methods of soothing an upset infant, there are more benefits to using a pacifier.
In order for a baby to accept a pacifier over his or her thumb, it must be introduced during the first two months. After that time, the urge to suck decreases. Medical literature suggests that if a baby is not a thumb- or finger-sucker by 1 month, pacifiers can be introduced for SIDS prevention. Several different types of pacifiers may have to be tested before a baby finds one he or she likes.
Once your baby begins to crawl, begin to wean him or her off the pacifier. At this time, speech begins to develop and a pacifier may interfere with progress. The following are a few tips to ensure your child doesn't walk around all day with a pacifier in his mouth:
By the time your child turns 2, he or she should be ready to give up the pacifier completely. Do not try to take it away during a time that is stressful for your child, such as moving, starting daycare or when a parent is away on business. Offer your child the option of throwing away the pacifier or his or her own or leaving it out for the "pacifier fairy." Be sure to give your child lots of praise for being a big girl or boy.