If my child uses a pacifier, will he/she have delayed speech and language?
The short answer is, the research is unclear.
A number of studies have looked at the prolonged use of a pacifier and its effect on speech and language. Some studies do show a correlation and some do not.
Some studies have also shown that children who use a pacifier for an extended period of time are at an increased risk of dental problems and ear infections, which are known contributors to speech and language delays.
From a Speech-Language Pathologists perspective, although the research is inconclusive, my recommendation to parents would be to be cautious when encouraging prolonged use of a pacifier or thumb sucking and discontinue as soon as you can. If the child’s mouth is occupied, he/she has less opportunity for babble, imitation and ultimately practice with sounds and words. If your child uses a pacifier or enjoys sucking his/her thumb, don’t panic but start thinking of other comforting measures and ensure your child has a lot of “empty mouth talking time” (ie. no soother or thumb in his/her mouth) throughout the day to practice his/her speech and language skills.
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Shotts, L., McDaniel, M., Neeley, R. (2008). The Impact of Prolonged Pacifier Use on Speech Articulation: A Preliminary Investigation. Contemporary Issues In Communication Sciences and Disorders, 35, 72-75.
Barbosa, C., Vasquez, S., Parada, M., Velez Gonzalez, J.C., Jackson, C., Yanez, N.D., Gelaye, B., & Fitzpatrick, A. (2009). The relationship of bottle feeding and other sucking behaviors with speech disorder in Patagonian preschoolers. BMC Pediatrics 9:66
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 2003.
Niemelä M, Uhari M, Möttönen M. (1995). “A pacifier increases the risk of recurrent acute otitis media in children in day care centers.” Pediatrics 5 Pt 1, 884-8.