Even before birth, a baby exhibits a strong sucking reflex that often persists up to age 4, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. A baby may suck on a variety of objects, including her fingers and thumb, a human nipple, the synthetic nipple of a pacifier or bottle, or even toys. If your baby fusses, you might be able to calm her by providing for her need to suck.
Provide your baby with a pacifier if she fusses. Gently insert the pacifier into your infant’s mouth and hold it there until she grasps it with her mouth and begins sucking it. Never force a pacifier into a baby’s mouth roughly.
Hold your baby’s thumb, fist or fingers near his mouth to see if he wants to suck them. A newborn might need a little extra help finding his hand in the beginning. After a little practice, the baby should begin finding his hand and sucking independently, if he desires.
Offer the breast to your baby if you think she just wants to suck. Even if your baby isn’t hungry, it’s fine to offer the breast, advises AskDrSears.com. Breast milk automatically regulates to "foremilk," which has fewer calories, if a baby is nursing for comfort instead of hunger.
Trim your fingernails (if necessary) and wash your hands well. Offer the tip of your pinky finger to your baby to see if he wants to suck on your finger, advises the American Pregnancy Association. Some babies might actively suck your finger and other babies may reject it.
Non-nutritive sucking (sucking with a purpose of soothing rather than providing food) has assorted benefits, states the AAP. A baby learns how to relax, self-soothe and regulate emotions. A baby may also use sucking to comfort himself when he feels anxious, bored or tired.
Keep your baby's pacifier clean, replace it according to product recommendations and never attach the pacifier to your baby.
If you are breastfeeding your child, you might consider the use of a pacifier carefully, advises the American Academy of Family Physicians. Using a pacifier may interfere with breastfeeding if you use it before you fully establish your milk supply and breastfeeding habits.