Have you ever wondered why babies and toddlers love putting everything and anything into their mouths, or why they have the need to suck on their thumbs/fingers/pacifiers? Babies and young children explore their environment by looking at something, picking it up, passing it from hand to hand, and finally---tasting it!
This is a very normal part of your child’s development. Around 4-6 months of age your baby will start putting their fingers and toes in their mouth, and trying to eat everything! Gagging is also very important at this age as that is how the gag reflex changes and develops normally. Of course, because of this, choking is a big hazard, and it is always important to know what to do in case of choking (video attached below.)
Finger sucking and pacifier use is very normal and common, as our children use these to soothe and comfort themselves. Most babies suck on their fingers when they are developing in utero, and continue this behavior after they are born. The sucking reflex is a primal one, and the urge is very strong! As long as the baby is fed, changed, and there’s no other real reason for fussing, sometimes all they need is a cuddle and pacifier/finger to suck on and off to sleep they go!
Pacifiers, however, can get a little tricky as a baby gets older. Some children get so attached to it that they use it continuously, which can affect their speech, tooth, and jaw development. It is important to try to limit the use of a pacifier as the child grows, and to try to wean them from it completely by age 3-6.
Thumb and finger sucking can be a habit that is difficult to break. Fortunately, most kids stop on their own by school age. If you are having trouble getting your child to stop sucking their thumb, check with your provider or dentist for tips and strategies to help!