A new study says that infants who suck their thumbs for longer periods are likely to develop speech disorders while growing up.
Researchers from the Corporacion de Rehabilitacion Club De Leones Cruz del Sur and the University of Washington Multidisciplinary International Research Training Program have said that the use of bottles, pacifiers and other sucking behaviours apart from breast-feeding may increase the risk of subsequent speech disorders in young children.
Led by Clarita Barbosa, the researchers evaluated the associations between sucking behaviors and speech disorders in 128 three- to five- year old preschoolers from Patagonia, Chile.
The team combined parents' reports of infant feeding and sucking behaviors with evaluations of their child's speech.
They found that delaying bottle use until the child was at least 9 months old reduced the risk of later developing speech disorders while 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", said Barbosa.
This finding is particularly relevant, as use of bottles and pacifiers has increased dramatically over the last few decades.
However, Barbosa noted: "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."
The study has been published in the open access journal BMC Pediatrics.