It was heartening, last weekend, to see the Duchess of Cambridge gently remove her son Louis’ thumb from his mouth as they watched the Trooping of the Colour flypast from the Buckingham Palace balcony. She did what most mother’s do when they want their children to stop a habit – she distracted him. He took his thumb out of his mouth, stopped sucking, and started happily waving at the planes flying overhead, delighting a nation of royal fans.
I wonder what the reaction would have been if Prince Louis had emerged with a dummy or pacifier in his mouth? There is a divided camp on whether the thumb or the dummy is better for a child. Which is easier to give up, more hygienic, less damaging to teeth? It is certainly a tough debate.
Aged just 14 months, Prince Louis is too young to be dissuaded from sucking either a dummy or his fingers or thumb to stop the habit. In fact, when he’s older, if he’s still sucking his thumb, we will be sending 3 Union Jack Thumbsies®, our book and a reward chart to Kensington Palace. In the meantime, we have been exploring the difference between sucking thumbs, fingers and dummies. Here’s what we found:
- Fingers have to be removed from the mouth to engage in play, whereas dummies can stay in all day which is not good for the teeth or speech formation.
- Both can cause dental malocclusion, overbite or misshapen jaws, particularly a dummy if it is in the mouth all day long.
- Some experts think that dummies are less damaging because children often give the dummy up long before their milk teeth arrive.
- Both can affect speech development, depending on the use.
- Dummies or pacifiers can be good for babies who have to spend time in intensive care after birth as it has shown to be an analgesic and lessen pain.
- You can remove a dummy and take it away which makes it easier for a child to give up sucking.
- Thumbs and fingers are readily available and always there, don’t fall on the floor or get lost in the night and always fit perfectly – so much harder to hide!
- Generally, a baby who is given a dummy will at some point stop using it, normally at an early age, and not resort to anything else. However, a baby who is not given a dummy will often suck their thumb instead.
Giving up either habit can be really difficult for a young child, but with help at hand like the Dummy Tree and Thumbsie® thumb guard, your family can enjoy a stress-free journey to breaking bad habits. There is lots of advice and support on our website for families who are trying to stop sucking. Also, check out this useful patient leaflet from the British Orthodontic Society which gives a dentist’s perspective on sucking.