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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 11/18/2010

Used too long, pacifiers may harm speech

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

Bye, bye, binky.

If your child uses a pacifier for too long, it may prevent him from developing certain mouth skills that he'll need to speak clearly. That's the news from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, at whose annual convention research about pacifier use and speech problems is being presented this morning.

It's already known that pacifier use (or thumb-sucking) beyond age 2 can alter the shape of a child's mouth, leading to dental problems such as misaligned teeth, overbite and malformed dental arches.

But now it appears overuse of a pacifier can interfere with development of "tongue tip movement" needed for the production of certain speech sounds.

From the press release announcing release of the research:

"There isn't a gold standard in the pacifier literature about an ideal age to eliminate pacifier use. Opinions vary," [Danielle] LaPrairie [presenter of the research] says.... "Our study highlights the importance of continued research with pacifier use and the possible effects on speech articulation."

If your child uses a pacifier for too long, it may prevent him from developing certain mouth skills that he'll need to speak clearly. (D.C. Sports Blog)

As many parents know, getting a child to give up thumb or pacifier can be tricky. Here are tips for helping wean your wee one from her binky or her thumb. (For obvious reasons, it's harder to get a kid to quit thumb-sucking.)

Have you had to help a child break a pacifier or thumb habit? Please share your experience in the comments section, and take a sec to vote in today's poll.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | November 18, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Dental Health, Family Health, General Health, Infant health, Kids' health, Parenting  
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My daughter sucked her thumb until she was 7 and started 2nd grade. Then I told her that I would fine her 1 penny for every time I saw her sucking her thumb during the day. I figured I wasn't going to watch her in bed, so I wouldn't set up a fine system for sleeping time. I am now 3 cents richer--that is all it took. And once she stopped in the daytime, it wasn't long before she stopped at night also. She has never had any issues with speech, and surprisingly, her teeth are in good shape also.

Posted by: janedoe5 | November 18, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I know this is mean but whenever I see a pacifer or fingers stuck in a child mouth - I feel like yanking it out & making the parent (who is usually on a phone texting) take actual care of the child. Amazing at how many parents allow their child to "soothe" themselves with plastic or dirty fingers. Very gross habit.

Posted by: AppleaDay | November 18, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Well, that really sucks!

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | November 18, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Judge much Appleaday?

Posted by: LTL1 | November 18, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I was a thumbsucker until school age and I speak well and didn't need braces. My children were thumbsuckers. I got my oldest to stop by offering her $10 a month for 3 months if I didn't see her sucking her thumb for that period. She was 7. It worked. My two youngest quit at the same time (7 and 5) because they were grossed out by the fact that they got worms. I told them it was from putting their dirty thumb in their mouth. So quitting isn't too painfull...if you wait to start it till they are older. Still wish it were easier when they are very young.

Posted by: mmartin622 | November 18, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

All 3 of my kids used pacifiers until age 3. It wasn't hard to give them up -- we took them to the doctor and gave them to her "for babies that she sees, who need it more." Worked with all 3 of them. Usually the precipitating event was that they would bite the rubber part off, or put holes in it. I figured at that point, it was a hazard and we needed to be done. MUCH easier than stopping thumbsucking. The doctor always told me not to worry about their pacifiers -- that they wouldn't take them to college with them ;-). My daughter has friends who tried everything to stop sucking thumbs/fingers and still did it in their sleep until age 12.

Posted by: VAMom3 | November 18, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

The kids I've known who've got pacifiers permanantly implanted beyond early infancy have had not ignoring parents but rather Velcro mommies. Go to your average story time and see four year olds sitting in $700 strollers, wearing pull-ups, gnawing on pacifiers like old men with cigar stubs, with Mommy helping them play. It's part of overparenting, perpetual soothing and emotion smoothing lest the child have an unmediated experience.

Forget the teeth for a minute--where on earth did we get the idea that toddlers and small children are always stressed out and need to be soothed every waking moment with something and usually something oral(pacifier, thumb, blankie, nursing solely for comfort and not nutrition)? I wonder if some of the obesity epidemic is because we teach small children, if you're unhappy put something in your mouth.

Posted by: di89 | November 18, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Appleaday doesn't mention how many children she has raised. Sometimes actual experience helps. Two of my children were literally born sucking their thumbs. Didn't have anything to do with either parental neglect or parental overparenting at that point, and you can't exactly cut off their thumb to break the habit.

Or as my father used to say, The world would be a better place if everyone raised the neighbor's children instead of their own. It's easy to see what someone else is doing wrong.

Posted by: dnfree | November 18, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I sucked my thumb until age 7. My mouth and speech are fine, but the constant pressure on my right thumb caused it to grow much shorter and wider than the other. Now, at age 48, I've got a little arthritis in it due to the malformation. It's always looked kinda funny, too, especially when compared to the normal thumb. I've never heard of this being a consequence of thumb-sucking, but surely I'm not the only one this happened to.

Posted by: Nutmeg2 | November 18, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

I believe that prolonged pacifier sucking can lead to speech problems. I read an article that prolonged thumb sucking leads to speech problems too. Both my kids were thumb suckers and we used a product called "Thumbuddy To Love" to help them break their comforting thumb sucking habit. It worked. It teaches kids in a fun and positive way. You can google it and get it online..

Posted by: Jill13 | November 18, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

The pacifiers are bad enough but what drives me nuts is parents that absolutly must keep he child on a leash!! If that isn't the epitome of bad parenting nothing is. Too busy to keep track of the child so let's leash em!!!!!

Posted by: ibail | November 18, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

hey, those are 4 of the 500 pacifiers I handed out at a Caps/Pens game at verizon center couple years ago. YAY :)

Posted by: capsfan387 | November 19, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

It is very hard for me to believe that you would use that pacifier picture in your serious blog about a serious topic. Is the Post so low in funds that you don't have editors anymore? I can't figure out if this is laziness on the part of the writers or just plain unprofessionalism. That is about as bad as anything I have ever seen from the Post in my 30 years of subscribing. You are a joke.

Posted by: vahockeyfan | November 22, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

By the way...Capsfan387, how did that game work out for you? Seems that your little farce backfired and Sid had the gamewinner on his stick. Maybe you should try using your energy to cheer for your team rather than being a jerk to the competitor. Only comes back to haunt you.

Posted by: vahockeyfan | November 22, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

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