Pacifier Use and Speech and Language Delay
If my child uses a pacifier will he/she have delayed speech and language?
The short answer is; the research is unclear.
A number of studies have looked at the prolonged use of a pacifier and its effect on speech and language. Some studies do show a correlation and some do not.
Some studies have also shown that children who use a pacifier for an extended period of time are at an increased risk of dental problems and ear infections, which are known contributors to speech and language delays.
From a Speech-Language Pathologists perspective, although the research is inconclusive, my recommendation to parents would be to be cautious when encouraging prolonged use of a pacifier or thumb sucking and discontinue as soon as you can. If the child’s mouth is occupied, he/she has less opportunity for babble, imitation and ultimately practice with sounds and words. These early childhood development stages are critical to proper speech success. If your child uses a pacifier or enjoys sucking his/her thumb, don’t panic but do start thinking of other comforting measures and ensure your child has a lot of “empty mouth talking time” (i.e. no soother or thumb in his/her mouth) throughout the day to practice his/her speech and language skills.
Erin is a Registered Speech Therapist and Clinical Director of Speech Kids Canada, an In-Home Speech therapy company.