Prolonged thumb sucking in infants may lead to speech impediments

Using a pacifier for too long may be detrimental to your child's speech. Research published in the open access journal BMC Pediatrics suggests that the use of bottles, pacifiers and other sucking behaviors apart from breast-feeding may increase the risk of subsequent speech disorders in young children.

A research team from the A research team from the Corporacion de Rehabilitacion Club De Leones Cruz del Sur and the University of Washington Multidisciplinary International Research Training Program, led by Clarita Barbosa, evaluated the associations between sucking behaviors and speech disorders in 128 three- to five- year old preschoolers from Patagonia, Chile. The team combined parents' reports of infant feeding and sucking behaviors with evaluations of their child's speech. They found that delaying bottle use until the child was at least 9 months old reduced the risk of later developing speech disorders while children who sucked their fingers, or used a pacifier for more than 3 years were three times more likely to develop speech impediments.

"These results suggest extended use of sucking outside of breast-feeding may have detrimental effects on speech development in young children", according to Barbosa. This finding is particularly relevant, as use of bottles and pacifiers has increased dramatically over the last few decades. However, Barbosa is careful to note, "Although results of this study provide further evidence for the benefits of longer duration of breast feeding of infants, they should be interpreted with caution as these data are observational."

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