We have long worried that prolonged use of pacifiers can deform babies' teeth. Now research has shown that it may also slow down the ability of children to talk.
Giving dummies to babies can slow their ability to talk, research suggests
Source: The Telegraph
Giving a baby a dummy can slow their ability to talk, according to new research.
The study also suggests toddlers who suck their thumbs are also at greater risk of delayed speech development.
The research shows infants need free tongue movement to decipher speech sounds - calling into question previous assumptions about language development.
The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to discover a direct link between oral-motor movements and auditory speech perception.
In the study teething toys were placed in the mouths of six-month-old English-learning babies while they listened to speech sounds.
These were different Hindi "d" sounds infants at this age can readily distinguish. Hindi has two "d" sounds whereas English only has one.
When the dummies restricted movements of the tip of the tongue the babies were unable to tell the two "d" sounds apart. But when their tongues were free to move they were able to make the distinction.
Dr Alison Bruderer, of British Columbia University in Canada, said: "Until now research in speech perception development and language acquisition has primarily used the auditory experience as the driving factor.
"Researchers should actually be looking at babies' oral-motor movements as well."
The study raise questions about how much time infants need with 'free' tongue movement for speech perception to develop normally.
It also has implications for speech perception in infants with motor impairments of the mouth, such as cleft palate, tongue-tie or paralysis.
Prof Janet Werker said: "This study indicates the freedom to make small gestures with their tongue and other articulators when they listen to speech may be an important factor in babies' perception of the sounds."
Previous research has shown toddlers who use dummies are three times more likely to suffer from speech impediments as they grow up.
Scientists found pre-school children who had used a pacifier for at least three years are more likely to have difficulties talking than children who don't use them.
The debate over the use of dummies has long troubled parents. Some babies find great comfort in using a pacifier - particularly when they are troubled with colic. Past studies have also shown dummies can halve the risk of cot death in newborn babies.
But dentists say extended use deforms teeth, and others have suggested use of a dummy during waking hours stops the child from joining in the chatter of everyday conversation.
Giving pacifiers to babies can slow their ability to talk
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