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Just In: Overuse of Pacifiers Damages Toddler Language Development

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  • A recent study suggests that overuse of baby pacifiers can potentially hinder the developing language skills of infants by the time they reach two years of age.
  • Children with higher Lifespan Pacifier Use (LPU) were found to have lesser vocabulary comprehension and production capacity, thus impacting their vocabulary size.
  • Although short-term constraints on speech were reversible, the overall developmental limitations due to higher pacifier use remained in place.

A new investigation has shed light on the impact of pacifier use on infants, revealing that its overuse could negatively affect infants’ language development.

The research examined 1,187 infants based in Oslo, Norway, focusing on potential speech and language implications of frequent pacifier use. Infants were classified into two different age groups, 12-month-olds and 24-month-olds. Parents were asked to provide detailed hourly reports to track pacifier use frequency.

This assessment was conducted across two-month intervals to calculate the total number of hours each child had spent with the pacifier, a metric termed as ‘Lifespan Pacifier Use’ or LPU. Parents were also required to fill out detailed questionnaires that included Communicative Development Inventories (CDIs) to ascertain familiarity with common words.

The study found that “children with a higher LPU enter life as a 2-year-old with less vocabulary at their disposal.” Infants with a higher average LPU nearing the age of 2 exhibited lower scores in vocabulary comprehension and production—the capacity to speak and understand spoken language.

“In essence, they are more likely to be in the lower percentile for vocabulary size. The more a pacifier was used, the lower the child’s vocabulary score.” Despite controlling the number of hours of pacifier use and reducing total hours for those with dependent tendencies, significant changes were not observed in their vocabulary, but the developmental limitations persisted.

In the U.S., the use of pacifiers peaks at around 3 months. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends discontinuing pacifier use by the age of 3, primarily due to concerns about physical problems such as dental impairment and increased risk of middle ear infections (otitis media). This new study adds more perspective to the potential impacts of pacifier use.

Scientists suggest that excessive use of pacifiers could limit the time infants engage in verbal communication practice, thereby hindering vocabulary growth. “At an earlier age, infants having pacifiers in their mouths present fewer opportunities to practice making sounds and forming words, which are essential for developing language skills.”

In conclusion, the researchers emphasized the impact of pacifier use on early language development might be influenced by other factors such as parent-child interactions, parental depression, or the child’s temperament. This points to the need for a comprehensive approach when considering the potential impacts of pacifier use on child development.

Let us know what you think, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Kenneth Fults

    July 13, 2024 at 8:48 am

    Both my brother and I sucked our thumbs ( we didn’t have pacifiers back then ) until we entered 1st grade ( we didn’t have kinder garden back then ) and neither one of us suffered any ill effects. I ended up with a degree in Civil Engineering and retired supervising over 200 employees. I am listed in Who’s Who in Science and Engineering and an currently 75+ years old. My brother is 2 years older and is a Master Electrician in Texas. I think you study is flawed.

    • Valeria

      July 13, 2024 at 10:03 am

      I love it when people boldly contend nothing happened to me so your wrong. I’ve been a governess ( teaching academics and care for the children of the elite) for thirty years, not only does pacifiers interfere with language development but it also steals the child’s ability to learn how to self sooth without an outside source, food, drugs, alcohol ECT becomes a soother later in life because they were never able to learn how to deal with their emotions, situations. The cute little novelty of sign language does the same thing, it interferes with language development.

  2. chur

    July 13, 2024 at 12:47 pm

    two of my children never wanted a pacifier. the middle child loved his pacifier. he had one until he was 2, and we finally told him that it was lost. he never cried for one and was fine. he has no language problem and is now going for his PHd.

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