Pacifier Use and Speech Delay
I am often asked by parents, "Is having my child use a pacifier bad for them?"
The answer to that question is, "It depends! "
Many researchers from various disciplines around the world have researched this question.
A 2021 article titled, "Does the duration and frequency of dummy (pacifier) use affect the development of speech? " in the International Journal of Language & Communication Disorder, highlighted the benefits and downsides of pacifier use. Among the highlights were such findings that pacifier use decreased the rates of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), assisted premature infants in learning to nurse and are soothing to infants. On the downside, prolonged pacifier use was found to have possible negative implications in oral muscle and dental development in addition to other issues.
The international community appears to agree that there are benefits of pacifier use in infants to the age of 1 year.
What continues to be researched and what makes this a "hot topic" is the ongoing and not definitive answer as to the use of pacifiers beyond the age of 1 year.
After reading several national and international research articles on the subject of speech and pacifiers, what is clear is that consistent prolonged and multi-hour use of pacifiers during the day, and while speaking, beyond the age of 1 year can increase the risk for young children to have dental malformation, ear infections and secondarily to develop speech and language delays.
The Take away:
1) Empirical data has found that pacifiers can help to prevent SIDS in infants and they help premature infants learn to nurse.
2) What seems to be the over riding secondary information among professionals and researchers is that limiting pacifier use in toddlers over the age of 1 year, may be best practice to decrease the risks of dental malformations ear infections and speech delays.
Should you have more questions on this topic, check in with your pediatrician and pediatric dentist. Further, if you have a SLP in your life, check with them for tips on weaning the use of pacifiers in older children.
You can also visit ASHA.org to read more on this topic.