Parents need all the help they can get when caring for their babies. As such, you’ll find several products geared towards this goal.
One of which is pacifiers. These toys are the next possible solution if a parent has already fed, cleaned, and tucked their youngling to sleep, but the baby still cries.
Now, you hear many things about pacifiers, both good and bad. Thus, “Can pacifiers delay speech?” is a valid question asked by new and experienced parents worldwide.
What Are Pacifiers?
The modern pacifier is initially called a “baby comforter,” an elongated teat, a mouth shield, and a handle are parts of a typical pacifier. It also has informal names like dinky, soother, or a Dodie.
Invented and patented in Manhattan in 1901, it is a soft toy typically made of silicone, rubber, or plastic.
Advantages of Using a Pacifier
Pacifiers have several clear advantages for parents and, most importantly, babies. Most babies feel comforted when they are sucking on a pacifier.
The science behind this is the physical action of sucking is typical for infants. That’s because the newborns’ instinctual response is to look for food whenever possible.
Using these are also good alternatives for finger, toe, and thumb-sucking babies. They’re also helpful tools in reducing the crying among infants undergoing painful surgeries and procedures.
Alongside the modern pacifier’s soothing effects, some studies conclude the linkage of reduced risk of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome to it.
The stated positive arguments are why the use of pacifiers is still under debate among doctors and experts.
Disadvantages of Using a Pacifier
Parents worldwide need to know what is the consequences of prolonged pacifier use.
First, your baby can become too dependent on the pacifier, especially when they need to sleep. As a parent, you’ll find that your baby wakes up and cries each time the pacifier falls out of their mouth. Also, dental problems, including teeth misalignment, are common for babies using a pacifier.
Additionally, the prolonged use of pacifiers leads to many oral disorders, including speech delay.
Pacifiers and Speech Delay
Clearly, the answer to “Can pacifiers delay speech?” is a yes, and there are many reasons why it happens. Let’s discuss the most ones.
Limited Use of the Mouth
Remember that the mouth is a muscle to be exercised and used. Speech practice is limited when a pacifier is inside a child’s mouth for a long time during the communication skills development stages.
Pacifiers can also cause speech delays because it lessens the number of times babies can babble, coo, and echo their environment. They also encourage the improper use of muscles resulting in distorted-sounding words.
All of these may result in delays in age-appropriate speech achievements.
Other Developmental Issues
Speech delay can also be secondary to other developmental issues that are sometimes attributed to excessive use of pacifiers. These conditions include:
- Altered Mouth Structure
A deviated development in a child’s palette may happen due to prolonged use of pacifiers. It can cause a raised or irregularly positioned palette, significantly affecting speech.
- Dental Malocclusion
Tooth formation is affected negatively through extended pacifier use. Some sounds or words that require adequately aligned teeth are mispronounced because of crooked teeth, underbites, and overbites.
A protruding tongue is a typical result of extended use of pacifiers. The tongue overextends between the upper and lower teeth resulting in a lisp.
A lisp may also aggravate a detrimental dental problem.
- Middle Ear Infection
There is evidence linking the prolonged use of pacifiers to otitis media in toddlers.
Middle-ear conditions may cause fluid build-up inside the ear. It can lead to eventual hearing impairment, which may snowball into other speech and language disorders.
- Swallowing Issues
Extended pacifier use may result in misdeveloped mouth muscles and abnormal swallowing patterns. Atypical swallowing can lead to difficulty in the articulation of sounds.
Preventing Pacifier-Related Speech Delay
Remember that babies acquire oral sensory and oral-motor skills during their developmental stage. That’s why 12 to 18 months is when speech and language develop quickly.
It is also when experts say it is best to wean babies off pacifiers. Evidently, it’s one of the steps to protect your children from problems caused by the excessive use of pacifiers.
So, how do you wean off your child?
Experts recommend that you slowly give your baby ways to soothe their sucking urge as early as six months.
You can play music and/or provide a non-teething toy to distract them. Educational toys are excellent alternatives to pacifiers.
When your kid is a bit older, make exciting stories about the absence of pacifiers. For example, a fairy gives treats in exchange for their pacifiers.
Talk to them to let them understand the harmful effects of a pacifier. It may be an effective way of taking pacifiers off their hands and mouths.
Proper usage of pacifiers can also help prevent speech delay and other harmful effects of prolonged pacifier use. Thus, removing the pacifier when your child is babbling or trying to communicate is also best.
Limiting the usage of a pacifier during nap time only, not during the waking time window, can also help. You must also only purchase age-appropriate pacifiers.
Lastly, do not dip the pacifier in sweet liquids or food, as exposure to sweets results in early tooth decay.
Can Pacifiers Delay Speech: In Conclusion
Depending on how you use pacifiers, they can be good and bad for your child. Specifically, prolonged pacifier use has been proven harmful.
It can cause several conditions, like speech delay, that can affect your child’s growth development and overall wellbeing.
Therefore, as a parent, remember that a pacifier is supposed to be an object that provides children relief and not discomfort.
Refrain from using it as your babysitter, giving it each time your baby needs comfort. Use it only when needed.
That said, if your child is currently experiencing speech delays, do not be disheartened. Speech delays may be outgrown, treated, and mitigated.
Many books can help parents and caregivers understand the complexities of speech and language delays.
Knowing more about it may lead to life-changing decisions.