The need to suck is great with my kids. It has meant that they are efficient nursers, but it has also meant that unless I want them attached to me all day every day, they would need something to suck on other than my nipples. It has meant that they can self soothe, but it has also meant that they have habits that we still haven’t figured out how to break.
My first daughter took a pacifier for awhile. She used her thumb whenever a pacifier was not available, and I would promptly take her thumb out and replace it with a pacifier until she started taking the pacifier out to replace it with her thumb. I was a thumb sucker as a kid, and I was trying to avoid the habit because you can’t just take it and throw it away like a pacifier. She is now 5, and she pops that thumb in when she feels anxious or is tired.
My second has always taken a pacifier. In order to avoid her sucking her thumb, I encouraged it. She quickly became obsessed with her “awoo” (her word for her pacifier). From 12-18 months she was only using it for naps and night time, but then we had a new baby, and I needed her to be able to have it sometimes. I threw out the boundaries, and we were both better able to cope with our days when she was able to use a pacifier more often. I encourage her to put it in her pocket or bag so she doesn’t have it in all the time, but it’s been incredibly useful as a way for her to soothe herself during the transition of no longer being the baby of the family. I have to be a little careful about pulling the plug as she has started using her thumb when she doesn’t have her pacifier.
I had noticed Roland sucking his fingers and sometimes even his thumb in the last few months. As he has gained better control of his hand movements, I have seen his fingers in his mouth more and more often. Sometimes, he will get frustrated if he is trying to put them in his mouth but can’t quite get them there (especially if he gets them stuck in his blanket). This time around, I’m not bothering with replacing them with a pacifier. He’s not the best with keeping it in his mouth, and honestly, I don’t want to have to keep up with it. I love that when he sucks on his two fingers, it makes the sign for “I love you.”
While my kids all have habits of sucking (you know what I mean), so far there haven’t been any terrible consequences. Breastfeeding was never an issue once pacifiers were introduced, and it hasn’t caused anyone to seem more prone to sickness. Of course, I’m terrified that we will pay for it in dental expenses down the line, but I’m pretty sure we would have those expenses anyways. For now, it certainly makes our life easier that they can soothe and calm themselves independently when they are feeling upset.