Pacifiers or Thumbsucking: Which is Worse?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 09, 2022

Month 5, Week 2

Babies suck to soothe themselves, which is why many infants depend on pacifiers or thumbs when they aren't nursing or taking a bottle. Some parents are anti-pacifier, worried that their children will need braces or that the habit is hard to break. If your child is used to a pacifier, try phasing the pacifiers out after six months.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Sucking a pacifier while sleeping may lower your baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Neither are perfect: Pacifiers can increase the risk of ear infections, but thumb-sucking can add germs to your baby's mouth.
  • Thumbs are lower maintenance, because babies know how to find them in the dark. Some babies cry in the middle of the night when the pacifier falls out.
  • As long as your child gives up their habit before their permanent teeth come in, their smile should be fine.
  • Try to keep the pacifier in the crib and limit its use to nap and night time. During the day, babies should be exploring their developing voices and babbling more.

Your Baby's Development This Week

Your roly-poly little one may be about to master a new skill: rolling over. Many babies lying on their stomachs will roll onto their backs for the first time this month. Some roll over slightly later, and some flip from back to stomach first – both are perfectly normal.

Here's what else to expect from your little mover and shaker:

  • Once they roll in one direction, babies quickly learn to roll in both directions.
  • When your baby kicks their legs, "swims" with their arms, or rocks back and forth during tummy time, they are preparing themselves to crawl.
  • Your baby can use their hands to bring objects to their mouth. They might even grab an ankle and taste their own toes!

Month 5, Week 2 Tips

  • Never place a pacifier on a cord or string around your baby's neck. That's a choking hazard.
  • If your baby uses a pacifier and has had several ear infections, phase it out to prevent additional ear problems.
  • When your baby begins eating solid food, they are more likely to get a diaper rash. Help prevent this by changing their diaper often.
  • Help your baby avoid scratches by cutting their nails weekly. If they resist, wait until they are asleep to trim those tiny fingernails and toenails.
  • To save money, accept friends' hand-me-down baby clothes, and tell people what items you need when they want to give a baby gift.
  • Test out the new-parent social life by dining in family-friendly restaurants, having baby playdates with friends, or trying dinner-and-a-movie night at home.
  • Your baby will be mobile soon! For safety's sake, drop the crib mattress to the lowest level. Child proof your home: have baby locks on all cabinets, remove dangling cords, and use plug protectors in electrical outlets. Also, keep bathroom and bedroom doors closed, and make sure you lock up all cleaning products.

Show Sources


American Academy of Pediatrics: "Healthy Children, Ages & Stages, Movement: 4 to 7 Months."

About Kids Health: "Motor Development: The First Six Months."

WebMD: "Baby's First Year."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Pacifiers: Satisfying Your Baby's Needs."

About Kids Health:  "What is an Ear Infection?"

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Diaper Rash Solution."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Nails, Nails Everywhere!"

About Kids Health: "Concerns for After the Baby Arrives."

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