Questions about 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 Wednesday, suggests that long-term pacifier use, thumb-sucking and even early bottle use increases the risk of speech disorders in children. The study was published in the open access journal BMC Pediatrics.
The study looked at the association between sucking behaviors and speech disorders in 128 children, ages 3 to 5, in Chile. Delaying bottle use until the infant was 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.
Breast-feeding did not have a detrimental effect on speech development.