Do Pacifiers Cause Speech Delay?

Pacifiers used to be an item in our nursing toolkit that have magical properties before my girl turned 1 year old. It works wonders whenever my baby girl has trouble falling asleep or crying inconsolably. Once I put pacifiers into her mouth, the whole world fell into soothing silence and she is once again our beloved little angel.

Besides soothing a fussy baby, pacifiers have two notable benefits worth mentioning. First, if you and your baby happen to be on a flight, you will notice that during takeoff or descent, putting a pacifier into your baby’s mouth could ease their ear pains much like yawning could relieve an adult’s ear discomfort caused by air pressure change. Secondly, sucking a pacifier at sleep time could significantly reduce the risk of SIDS, the much-feared infant death syndrome.

As your children grow older, doubts start to grow around the use of pacifiers. Many parents become worried about the negative impacts of the use of pacifiers on their children, especially their speech development.

Do pacifiers cause speech delay?

Unfortunately, the scientific community hasn’t been able to prove the direct link between excessive use of pacifiers and speech delay. A couple of studies in recent years have come up with different results.

But experts generally agree that excessive use of pacifiers after six months will increase the risk of ear infection, which in turn results in possible hearing loss. As we all know, if babies lost hearing or had hearing impairment prematurely, their speech development will suffer as a result.

Interacting with parents is the primary means by which children develop their speech and emotional skills. Over-Reliance on pacifiers would take away those precious engaging moments when your children could respond to your loving talk and imitate your sound. 

So I lean toward the verdict that excessive use of pacifiers could impede speech development.

When to take away pacifiers

When to take away pacifiers

There are a few factors to consider when choosing the ideal time to wean your kids off pacifiers. Although pacifiers can help to reduce the risk of SIDS, the risk of SIDS after 6 months will drop significantly while the rate of ear infection starts to pick up among children more than 6 months old.

Moreover, after 6 months, your children might gradually develop an emotional attachment to their pacifiers, making weaning efforts increasingly hard. So take advantage of this window of opportunity to wean your children off pacifiers when your children are around 6 months old.

But it’s not hard science, it’s ok for babies beyond 6 months old to stick with their pacifiers to relieve their stress, as long as you don’t rely on them as a first-line defense to soothe your baby. Try rocking them or talking with them to calm them down. Only use pacifiers when you run out of options.

But prolonged use of pacifiers after age 2 is strongly discouraged because it may not only cause speech delay but also teeth misalignment.  

Try to wean your children off it as soon as possible after 6 months when it is easier. If your children develop a dependency on pacifiers and enter the phase called the terrible twos, you might be hard put to get them off it.

How to take away pacifiers

How to take away pacifiers

There are no proven strategies that work for everyone, but as parents, you have to work out a stress-free approach to encourage your children to surrender their beloved binky without a big tantrum.

Remember there is no deadline to keep. Your children will eventually develop a more advanced strategy to manage their stress and no one goes to college with a pacifier in the mouth.

I am very lucky to get my kid off binky in one try. I snipped the top of the pacifier she used and gave it to her. I kept another identical pacifier in case things went out of control. She just gave me a confused look and decided the pacifier is too broken for her and simply forgot it. 

I wish things were this easy for everyone. If your children prove more adamant, there are a few tips to try.

Gradually phase out pacifiers, telling your children that pacifiers stay at home and when you leave the house, you no longer carry pacifiers with you. Minimize the role the pacifiers play in everyday situations.

Praise your children whenever they calm down without the use of pacifiers, saying something like:” You are a big boy now, you have learned to calm yourself without a pacifier.” Encouraging the budding sense of pride goes a long way towards building up self-control.

Distract your children in situations where you used to give them pacifiers. Give them toys or play games with them to get their mind off pacifiers. 

Be prepared for a long wean off period, some children formed a strong attachment to their binky and it is not easy to shake off this strong need. But take heart, they will get there.

What’s the sign of speech delay

Most of the suspected cases of speech delay are nothing serious and could be attributed to the fact that every child develops at different paces. But parents need to remain vigilant and watch out for signs that might indicate potential speech problems that need immediate medical attention.

If your children miss the following speech development milestones, call the doctor.

  • Children at 12 months old should be able to use gestures like point and wave.
  • Children at 18 months old should prefer to utter sounds to communicate instead of gestures and could understand simple sentences.
  • Children at 24 months old should be able to understand simple instructions and use words and phrases spontaneously.

What parents could do to stimulate children’s speech development

What parents could do to stimulate children's speech development

A friend of mine suspected that his boy had a speech problem. He is perfectly capable of understanding their parents’ speech and following their instructions but always prefers to limit the length of his speech to two or three words.

His parents couldn’t shake off the suspicion that their child has delayed speech development and took him to see a pediatrician. The result of the checkup turned out just fine.

The pediatrician couldn’t spot any underlying physical or mental health problems but offered many tips on how to promote children’s speech development. At the core of these tips is a pair of talkative parents who like to engage their children with loving talk at every opportunity.

Here is what they did to encourage speech development:

  1. Read a lot to their boy. They bought and borrowed many age-appropriate books and set up a reading zone at home. Usually, before bedtime, they would take about half an hour to read to their boy and they let their boy choose which book to read tonight.
  2. They became a lot of talkative, especially with their child. I noticed whenever they went out with their boy, they would describe a lot of things to their boy like traffic jams, flapping birds.

It didn’t take long for their boy to become a chatty little boy whose curiosity knows no bounds. He would pester their parents with many questions. “Sometimes the waves of questions can become a little hard to cope with.” their parents said to me, smiling. 

Conclusion

While the use of pacifiers offers many benefits to babies up to 6 months old, it is advisable to wean them off pacifiers starting from 6 months old because it might cause ear infection, teeth misalignment, and speech delay, especially among children more than 2 years old.

Be patient when you try to stop the use of pacifiers, work out a stress-free approach that works for your children. Offer praises and encouragements generously.

Interact with your children at every opportunity, encourage them to imitate your sound, and read books to them whenever possible. If you suspect your children have delayed speech development, see a doctor immediately.

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