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Lengthy pacifier use can lead to speech problems

October 21, 2009 |  6:00 am

Pacifiers Questions on whether a baby should be given a pacifier or allowed to thumb-suck have existed for generations. The concerns center on whether sucking habits will impact tooth alignment and speech development. The latest evidence, published today, suggests that long-term pacifier use, thumb-sucking and even early bottle use increases the risk of speech disorders in children.

The study looked at the association between sucking behaviors and speech disorders in 128 children, ages three to five, in Chile. Delaying bottle use until at least 9 months old reduced the risk of developing a speech disorder, researchers found. But children who sucked their thumb, fingers or used a pacifier for more than three years were three times as likely to develop speech impediments. Breastfeeding did not have a detrimental effect on speech development.

The authors of the study noted that other research suggests that use of a pacifier or thumb-sucking for less than three years also increases the risk of a speech problem. The sucking motion may change the normal shape of the dental arch and bite. Breastfeeding, however, seems to promote positive oral development.

"The development of coordinated breathing, chewing, swallowing and speech articulation has been shown to be associated with breastfeeding. It is believed that breastfeeding promotes mobility, strength and posture of the speech organs," the authors wrote.

The study is published in the open access journal BMC Pediatrics.

- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

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Comments (6)

Duh.

One daughter hated them, and wouldn't speak until she was nearly five. Now she's in Mensa and attending a prestigious college.

The other daughter loved her "dummy". She's now a teenager and talks constantly and loves school.

Perhaps the dolts behind this landmark research should get another grant for 20 years for a followup paper. Or maybe just be "unemployed" now. Let's go with "unemployed".

Could it be possible that mothers who breastfeed invest more QUALITY time with their children (infant). Better verbal/language skills develop with better mother/child attachment.

I use to thumb suck up until I was 10. My parents thought something would happen to me because of it. I did not develop or identified as person with any speech impediments. I even went to a pretty good school called UC Berkeley aka Cal. I do think the researchers need to keep studying this subject.

I am so releived that breastfeeding is OK! My goodness, first we read that there are to be no bottles until 9 months (and no finger sucking or passifiers either) and then the issue of breast feeding is raised-I was about to think that the article would recomend nothing go into the mouths of babes until 9 months or later--sucking delays speach development! But not nearly so much as not eating. What a releif that breast feeding is OK, so we are not being cajoled into attempting to stuff mush into babies mouths with sticks. Or something.

Wow, what a surprise!

Anyone who knows basic human anatomy (remember 4th grade, anyone?) should know this.

Suckling at the nipple and areola is vastly different to sucking an artificial nipple or 'pacifier.'

When the infant latches onto the nipple and surrounding areola, the suckling motion places the nipple at the back of the throat, near the uvula. The tongue makes an upward, spreading motion that ripples to the back of the throat, efficiently extracting milk and directing it down the throat.

This process, in the abscence of Ankyloglossia, shapes the roof of the mouth and spaces the teeth, along with developing tongue movements.

Sucking at a pacifier or artificial nipple is not the same as suckling. The nipple does not flex or curve, it does not fit in the back of the throat and it is often much thicker and harder than a human nipple. The sucking motion is similar to the way you might suck on a straw.

Big Jim, I guess since your kids managed to avoid negative consequences associated with artificial nipples, you're going to tell them to avoid anything from a study now, eh? They best not wear seatbelts, throw out spoiled food or get their exercise!



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