I've just had another conversation with a parent of a 4 1/2 year old with poor speech about the use of dummies as a huge contributory factor to his problems. He had one until well over 3 years of age because the mother-in-law said it would 'ruin his personality' if it was taken off him!! What complete and utter rubbish (I've calmed down now so I'm more polite because that wasn't what I was thinking at the time!).
He's now left with no 'l' sound, 'ch' and 'j' are wrong and his tongue protrudes for 's', 'z' and 'sh'. He's going to need months of therapy with lots of practise at home.
For the mother-in-law and anyone else who is unsure:
During your baby's early months a dummy can help to soothe. This is understandable, as most babies have a strong sucking reflex and the dummy can, in many cases, help to settle the child. It may not, however, be necessary even then! My babies didn't have one but if it helps to 'pacify' at sleep times, then I see no real problem for up to a year old. After that, it should be dropped because the child needs to be able to make use of a full range of sounds which can only be achieved by letting the tongue move freely around the articulators (lips, gums, palate etc.) They should NEVER be used when the child is talking.
Using the dummy can lead to the following problems:
- incorrect positioning of teeth so that the bottom and top teeth at the front don't meet properly
- tooth decay (especially the front teeth) if the dummy is dipped into sweet things
- your child may tend to breathe through their mouth rather than their nose. This is often linked to long-term dribbling
Speech and language problems:
- your child may not use the full range of tongue movements that are necessary for making all the speech sound your child has fewer opportunities to babble and use sounds to communicate with you
- much higher risk of acquiring speech sound difficulties
I know I hate them and you're probably thinking I'm being too harsh but I think we need to look at WHY they have them when they are able to talk. Are parents trying to shut up their child?
We need to talk more, not less and anything that gets in the way of this should be discouraged.
I have an A4 'Dummy Free Zone' poster if anyone would like one