Thumb-Sucking and Other Baby Soothing Techniques

Thumb-sucking isn’t just a quirky behavior of babies and young children. It’s actually vital to healthy early childhood development. Here’s why it’s acceptable for your baby to do it.

Why your baby sucks her thumb
Sucking is an instinctive behavior for newborns. You may be tempted to discourage thumb-sucking to prevent your baby’s teeth from coming in crooked, but it’s better to let her indulge in the habit for now. It teaches her the valuable skill of self-soothing, bringing her comfort when she’s tired or unsettled.

If you can wean your baby off thumb-sucking by age 4, when permanent teeth come in, it won’t affect her pearly whites. In the short term, the ability to self-comfort will help your baby fall asleep faster, as well as fall back to sleep on her own after waking at night.

Other baby soothing techniques that work
Most babies experience crying jags, often in the late afternoon. First, check to make sure your baby’s cries are not a sign that she’s hungry, tired, or uncomfortable. Don’t fret if you can’t seem to find a reason: Baby crying doesn't always mean something is wrong. It can be a normal part of baby development, caused by a maturing nervous system.

If sucking on fingers or a pacifier doesn’t seem to console your baby, try these soothing techniques:

  • Gently rock your baby

  • Softly sing to her

  • Swaddle your baby
  • Place her in a front carrier or infant swing

The more upset your baby is, the harder it may be for you, but try to stay calm. Remember to rest when your baby sleeps, and be sure to eat regularly. You’ll be better able to take care of your baby once you’ve taken care of yourself.