Children's speech development impaired by fingers and dummies

Katy Morton
Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Children who suck their fingers or use a dummy for more than three years are three times more likely to develop speech impediments, according to a new study.

Researchers from the United States and Chile studied 128 three- to five-year-olds. They compared the children's history of thumb and finger sucking, breastfeeding and use of dummies with evaluations of children's speech.

They found that the use of bottles, dummies and other sucking behaviour apart from breastfeeding could increase the risk of speech disorders in young children.

Children who were breastfed until they were at least nine months old and not bottle-fed were less likely to experience any problems.

Kate Freeman, a speech and language expert and 0-3 programme manager for the charity I CAN, said, 'If children have dummies or their fingers in their mouths, they are not able to practise sounds and their language may not develop as it should. This is how children learn to communicate and if they are not doing that because they are sucking, it may restrict the interaction with parents.'

Psychologist Jennie Lindon said, 'Once children are in their second year of life it is sensible for parents and wise practitioners to gently ease dummies away from toddlers, for when they are awake.'

Previous studies have shown that bottles, dummies and thumb sucking can also deform children's teeth (News, 25 November 2004).

However, the Department of Health advises that newborn babies should be put to bed with a dummy, as this has been shown to halve the risk of cot death.

- Further information: The study appears in the journal BMC Paediatrics. Visit www.biomedcentral.com/bmcpediatr

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