A research team at the Corporacion de Rehabilitacion Club De Leones Cruz del Sur and the University of Washington Multidisciplinary International Research Training Program, led by Clarita Barbosa, evaluated the associations between sucking behaviors and speech disorders in 128 3- to 5-year-old preschoolers from Patagonia, Chile.
The team collected data from the parents on infant feeding and sucking behaviors and conducted evaluations of the child's speech.
The study, published in the journal BMC Pediatrics, found that delaying bottle use until the child was at least 9 months old reduced the risk of a child later developing speech disorders. Children who sucked their fingers or used a pacifier for more than 3 years were three times more likely to develop speech impediments.
"These results suggest extended use of sucking outside of breast-feeding may have detrimental effects on speech development in young children," Barbosa says in a statement. "Although results of this study provide further evidence for the benefits of longer duration of breast feeding of infants, they should be interpreted with caution as these data are observational."