The question of whether to continue with a dummy and bottle for children over 12 months is one that we get asked a lot! Recently, one of our members asked whether there is evidence or data to suggest that this may impact speech and language development. We would like to share this information in this month’s blog.
Dummies can provide a great source of comfort and be soothing for infants who struggle to settle, practically within those early months.
Most experts advise children should be weaned off dummies by 12 months of age to encourage independent calming strategies, reduce disruption to teeth development such as an overbite, and to support communication expansion through talking and speech sounds. Additionally, children who use dummies are more susceptible to increased middle ear infections. Continuous sucking on a dummy causes the Eustachian “auditory” tube in our oral structure to be abnormally open, promoting fluids containing bacteria from the nose and throat to make their way into the middle ear, causing infection and discomfort. In some cases, prolonged untreated ear infections can lead to hearing loss.
Dummies can get in the way when toddlers are learning to speak. Often the toddler will move the dummy to the side of mouth when they are talking and this can restrict oral movement and development to produce clear speech, reduce the imitation of adults and the desire to communicate if the mouth is preoccupied. Furthermore, there is an increased risk of developing a lisp due to the tongue being protruded forward and this can also cause disruption to the natural teeth alignment.
Using soft lid bottles past the age of 12 months is discouraged by most health professionals. Past the age of 12 months these bottles pose the same developmental hinders as dummy users, as well as some additional factors. Prolonged sipping on a bottle with milk or juice throughout the day can lead to cavities and tooth decay. Teeth are very important when developing speech sounds and our overall facial and jaw structure and health.
Using dummies and bottles is a personal choice for families, however, in most cases it is recommended after 12 months of age to introduce weaning to cups and other sources of comfort. Using bottles for water only and putting milk or juice in a cup can assist children to transition. Weaning can be stressful for both parents and children, however, the key is to remain persistent, patient and positive.