Thumb Sucking

Sucking is a normal baby reflex, beginning around the 29th week of gestation.
Nonnutritive sucking is a universal phenomenon, with nearly 100% of normal babies engaging in it. Babies may suck their thumb, fingers, hand, a pacifier, or other inanimate object such as a blanket or toy.
Nonnutritive sucking has several benefits.
It is an early step in an infant's ability to self-regulate his or her emotions.
It helps the child to relax and focus his or her attention.
It provides comfort and security. Therefore, sucking occurs more often when the child is tired, bored, anxious, or upset.
Most children discontinue their nonnutritive sucking habit between the ages of 2 and 4 years. One study by Nowak and Warren (2000) found that 50% of children discontinued use by 28 months of age, 71% discontinued use by 36 months of age, and 90% discontinued use by 48 months of age. Therefore, more than 20% of children still engage in nonnutritive sucking at the age of 3.
In general, pacifier users typically discontinue the habit earlier than thumb suckers. However, older children who are thumb suckers are often motivated to quit by peer pressure at school. Prolonged habit is associated with higher maternal education, older maternal age, and not having older siblings.
After much investigation, the use of pacifiers has been shown to decrease the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, this excitement is balanced against concerns that pacifier use may lower breastfeeding success and the possible long-term effects of pacifier use.
Consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. Although the mechanism is not known, the reduced risk of SIDS associated with pacifier use during sleep is compelling, and the evidence that pacifier use interferes with breastfeeding or causes later dental complications is not. Unless new evidence dictates otherwise, the task force recommends use of a pacifier throughout the first year of life according to the following procedures:
The pacifier should be used when placing the infant down for sleep and not be reinserted once the infant falls asleep. If the infant refuses the pacifier, he or she should not be forced to take it.
Pacifiers should not be coated in any sweet solution.
Pacifiers should be cleaned often and replaced regularly.
For breastfed infants, delay pacifier introduction until 1 month
of age to ensure that breastfeeding is firmly established.
Pacifiers should never be used to replace or delay meals and should be offered when the caregiver is certain the child is not hungry.
Pacifiers should have ventilation holes and a shield wider than the child’s mouth (at least 1¼ inches in diameter).
Pacifiers should be one piece and made of a durable material, replaced when worn, and never tied by a string to the crib or around a child’s neck or hand.
Physiologic pacifiers are preferable to conventional pacifiers because they may have less dental effects.
                                                                          Dr. Daniel Ravel, DDS
                                                                              Pediatric Dentist
                                                           1031 Weiss Ave, Fayetteville, NC 28305 
                                                                                (910) 486-4180