Study Warns of Lengthy Pacifier Use

10.22.09 Possible link between speech delays and prolonged usage of a binky or thumb-sucking

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A pacifier is fine, but don't let your child use one too long, the Los Angeles Times reports.

A new study from American and Chilean researchers found that children who used a pacifier or sucked on their fingers for more than three years were three times as likely as other kids to develop speech impediments.

The study, published online in the journal BMC Pediatrics, examined 128 Chilean children ages 3 to 5. Researchers also found that children will have a lower risk of developing speech disorders if they are not bottle-fed until they're at least 9 months old.

"These results suggest extended use of sucking outside of breastfeeding may have detrimental effects on speech development in young children," the study says. Researchers did caution that additional and larger studies are necessary to further confirm their findings.

The debate over pacifiers has long troubled parents. Some babies find comfort in using pacifiers; and fetuses have been observed sucking their thumbs in the womb. But dental experts have warned that extended pacifier use or thumb-sucking can deform teeth. Others have suggested that the use of a pacifier during waking hours prevents a child from chatting with other people. On the flip side, new research shows pacifiers can help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

If you're baby is crying and you've tried everything, a pacifier is starting to look really good to you. But before you pop a binky in your baby's mouth, take a glimpse at our list of pros vs. cons and how this small piece of comfort could affect your baby's health. If you're worried about nipple confusion and you're breastfeeding, here's some tips on how to integrate pacifiers into your baby's routine.

Ultimately, it's your decision to binky or not to binky ... you know what's best for your baby!

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.