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Thumb Sucking

Thumb or Dummy – Which is Better?

Everyone, whether they have children or not probably has an opinion on thumb sucking. Many people have their own views whether they have experienced it with their own child or not. But thumb or dummy  – which is better?

Once they have started sucking on a dummy how can you stop your toddler from popping their thumb in their mouth or finger sucking?

Ultimately it is down to the parent and child whether you choose the thumb or the dummy, but here are some of the pros and cons for each.

The thumb doesn’t need to be tied to the child’s clothing as is always readily available and always there. Thumbs don’t fall on the floor or get lost in the night, thumbs fit perfectly.

Dummies can be encouraged to help soothe the child. Dummies can also be taken from a child whilst thumbs are somewhat more permanent!

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.

It’s thought that using a dummy may help to guard your baby against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as cot death. However, please do not feel the need to encourage your baby to take a dummy if they don’t want one. There are other, more effective steps you can take to protect your baby and keep them safe. Please talk to your Health Visitor if you have any concerns.

Some dental experts say that thumbs and fingers are a far worse problem with teeth than dummies.  As we have said unlike a dummy, the thumb cannot be taken away and is always available. They say that thumb sucking often carries on into older childhood. You can read more about the effects on the position of teeth on our The problems with thumb sucking page but ultimately the teeth may then need correction with braces. Dummies, however according to the experts, are thought to be less damaging, however this is mainly because children often give the dummy up long before their milk teeth arrive.

Yet other dental experts say dummies, thumb and or finger sucking can affect the teeth in essentially the same way.

However most dental experts tell us not to be worried about the effects of dummy or and digit sucking while the child still has their baby teeth. However, by the time their adult teeth come in, around six or seven years the teeth and the shape of the child’s mouth may be affected if this sucking behaviour continues.

I found some parents comments on Netmums about the thumb or dummy subject and it seems they are torn too:

One mum on says “My son is a thumb sucker and can suck himself to sleep quite happily (when he wants to) and also sucks for comfort. We didn’t try a dummy because I didn’t want him to get a habit, but he’s found his own! Oh well. “

This parent says “I’m sorry but I totally disagree with thumb/finger sucking. You can control the dummy better, you can’t take or throw a thumb away when you need them to stop.”

“We did try him with a dummy, but he wouldn’t take it.  He sucks his thumb a lot.  When he’s tired, grumpy, bored, and sometimes just because he can I think.   Even when he’s doing swimming he’ll stop and suck his thumb.  I think it will be a difficult habit to break”.  

Another says “Hi my son had a dummy but we found he cried during the night when he awoke and could not find it. So I was up and down all night. He does not have the dummy any more and is much happier with his thumb.”

So it seems that there are advantages to allowing your baby or toddler to suck their thumb rather than a dummy or pacifier. It seems to be a subject that is a bit of a minefield and we don’t really know that anyone has the answer. I think its fair to say that both can have their problems, particularly when it comes to giving up!

My daughter Isabel (8 years old) has several views on the subject:

“You can’t take a dummy to school but you can take your thumb.  You can give your dummy to the dummy fairy. Thumb sucking can make your thumb sore. But most importantly you can’t get a solution to stop dummy sucking but you can get one for thumb sucking” – the girl’s a genius!!

At the end of the day I don’t think that you get to choose whether to use a dummy or let your child have their thumb, I think your baby or child will make their own mind up.

However, if they use a dummy and then surrender it to the “Dummy Fairy” or suck their thumb and can’t stop the habit then Thumbsie® thumb guard is here to help.

Be sure to check out this useful patient leaflet from the British Orthodontic Society which might help you decide whether thumb or dummy sucking is best for your child.


Problems with Thumb Sucking

You may be concerned if it is harmful, at what age should they stop or what could be the long-term effects if they don’t stop.

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