Ah, the pacifier, or the infamous “binky”. This is something that’s saved many mothers from their fussy babies and restless little ones! However, there has been a lot of debate falling around the use of binkies for babies, with parents avoiding it as much as possible because of how it may cause speech delay.
There isn’t a clear-cut answer to whether or not pacifiers directly cause speech delay, as there are mixed studies and experiences on it.
The truth of the matter is that the benefits and risks pacifiers offer would vary with every child, but I recommend having them wean off the pacifiers as soon as possible. With that said, let’s read on to see how exactly pacifiers benefit your little ones and if they pose a risk of causing speech delay.
Do Pacifiers Cause Speech Delay?
As mentioned, pacifiers may cause speech delay, due to factors which I’ll explain below. While pacifiers aren’t completely bad and have their benefits, there are a few things to look into when letting your little one use a pacifier and its connection with their early speech and language speech.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that your little one uses a pacifier for up to 6 months old their sleep time, which may reduce the risk of SIDS (I’ll explain this below). However, once they reach a year old, it isn’t encouraged to continue its use, as it has shown correlations to various conditions.
Experts recommend that you wean your child off the pacifier throughout their second six months of life so it prevents any complications, including the negative effects of ear infections, breastfeeding, dental malocclusion, among others. Once they reach 2 years old, they should have already stopped using the pacifier.
Besides this, here are more considerations to read up on:
- How Long Does Your Child Use the Pacifier?
Pacifiers are advantageous in soothing babies, but how long do they use them for in a day? This matters because for your little one to learn how to speak, they need practice (just like with any skill!).
For your little one, practicing will mean spending a ton of time babbling, moving their jaw, lips, and tongue. However, if they use their pacifier most of the day, they won’t be able to practice moving their mouths or explore how it can produce sound (their voice), which is essential in speech development.
- Pacifiers and Teeth Formation
When your little one uses a pacifier too much, it may negatively affect their tooth formation. If his teeth won’t be formed properly, then it may affect their speech.
One study conducted by Barbosa showed that there is an increased chance of teeth malformation, which can affect their speech sound development for little ones who use pacifiers when they are over 3 years old. This factor matters because speech development will require the tip of the tongue to meet the front teeth. If the teeth are misaligned, then it would be more difficult for people to understand what they are saying.
- Middle Ear Infections
There is evidence that shows how using pacifiers too much may result in middle ear infections in both babies and toddlers.
This is an important consideration because ear fluids may potentially cause fluid buildup in the ear, which may cause temporary hearing loss. If your little one experiences such ear infections, its symptoms, namely mild hearing loss, can impact their speech and language development.
With all this in mind, there has been research that directly investigated the speech production of babies who use pacifiers versus non-pacifier users. It yielded mixed results. One study showed no significant differences in speech production in children who do not use pacifiers vs those who do. Another study showed results that prolonged sucking outside breastfeeding might negatively impact one’s speech, with those who use pacifiers and sucked their fingers for 3 or more years are thrice as likely to develop speech disorders.
So while there is no definite research on how pacifiers can negatively affect speech and language development (yet), these factors show how it may indirectly and potentially affect it. Babies should practice babbling and making sounds, as well as participate in conversations without using pacifiers. Furthermore, it’s best to avoid the potential risk of teeth malformations and/or ear infections, which doesn’t only risk poor speech development, but might be uncomfortable for your little one to experience.
The Pros and Cons of Pacifiers
As mentioned, there are advantages and disadvantages pacifiers have, though it varies depending on the child using it. Here are its pros and cons so you can evaluate if this is worth investing in for your little one.
Pros of a Pacifier
The reason why the pacifier is popular among parents is that it can help calm babies, providing comfort through its sucking. Sucking is an oral motor function, which is needed for feeding. Premature babies can benefit from pacifiers, as it increases their feeding and weight.
Furthermore, pacifiers prevent children from sucking their thumbs. Some studies show how using pacifiers can reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, though this requires more research as it hasn’t yet to be proven.
Cons of a Pacifier
Until you incorporate a consistent feeding routine, pacifiers may negatively affect the success of both breastfeeding and bottle feeding. It’s crucial to master feeding first before you use a pacifier and that you wait for a month before you give the pacifier, so your little one can develop a healthy feeding routine.
To add, pacifiers may alter tongue and teeth positioning, which may change the way your little one can make sounds or form words. While this doesn’t affect all babies, it’s the reason why it may delay their speech development.
How to Wean Your Baby Off the Pacifier
Now that you know about the pros and cons of pacifiers, what can you do to wean your child off them, if you choose to? Here are tips to follow, which can help even the fussiest baby!
- If your little one is still using a pacifier, begin weaning them off once they hit 6 months old, or 12 months old at the latest. You can do this by gradually introducing other methods to soothe your little one, such as music, going for walks, or holding their favorite toys. Don’t let the pacifier or thumb-sucking become a long-term habit.
- Save the pacifier for when they need to nap or sleep only. Don’t let it be available for your little ones while they are awake.
- You may also want to consider having them quit cold turkey and let them go of the pacifier immediately. You can do this by being frank about it, saying that “when you’re 2 years old, you don’t get the pacifier anymore”, provided that they understand what you’re saying.
- When having them quit cold turkey, you can encourage them that letting it go is a good thing by celebrating this new milestone or giving them a special present in exchange for it.
- You should be strongas you wean them off gradually or immediately. You may have a few restless nights since your little one may be crying without it, but remember that children adapt quickly, and in time, they will get used to not having it around.
Do you want to learn more about how you can wean your little one off pacifiers? Check out this informative video ：
Other Tips If Your Baby Uses Pacifiers
Do you still want your little one to continue using pacifiers? That’s alright too, provided that they don’t rely on it too much. Here are tips you can follow when using these binkies:
- Only use pacifiers that are made for your child’s age.
- Make sure that you clean the pacifier and wash it properly after every use.
- Protect your little one’s teeth and never dip the pacifier in sweet food to calm them down or let them enjoy their taste buds.
- Never let your child babble or talk while the pacifier is still in his mouth.
But as much as possible, don’t let them use a pacifier or force them to do so if they haven’t started on the habit yet. Use the pacifier sparingly, rather than every time your little one cries, or he will get used to it, making it harder to wean off.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes to your little one using pacifiers, it isn’t exactly the end of the world. However, some factors using a pacifier has that may affect a few parts of your baby’s development, including their speech. While it’s fine to have them use the pacifier a few times, make sure they have completely weaned off it before they turn a year old.
I hope that this article answered your worries and questions regarding, “do pacifiers cause speech delay?” Now that you know the answers, do make sure that you slowly wean off your little ones from the pacifier following the correct tips.
Do you have questions or want to share tips and experiences about the binky with your little one? Share them in the comments section below, all your thoughts are much appreciated!