Like Moms Need More Stuff to Worry About » Teeny Manolo

Like Moms Need More Stuff to Worry About

By Glinda

child sucking thumb


A study has found that children who use a pacifier for a long period of time, suck their thumbs, or are bottle-fed babies have an increased risk of speech disorders.


Now mind you, this is just one study, and it was published in a medical journal I’ve never heard of.

The only thing that apparently does not put your child  at risk is breastfeeding. 

Am I the only one who has had it up to here with all of these crazy studies, all of them showing different horrible things that can happen to your child because you, the parent, allowed it to happen?  That because of the wrong choices you made, your child will suffer later on down the line?  Even though you were just trying to do the best you could at the time.

Cut us some slack, will ya?

Take the thumb-sucking.  Children have been thumb-sucking for what is most likely millennia, but all of a sudden there is a huge problem with it.

The Munchkin hated pacifiers, he would spit them out whenever I tried to give one to him, and I eventually gave up.  He never sucked his thumb, but man, did he love that bottle.  I allowed him to use it to fall asleep (filled with water, of course) for probably much longer than I should have, past the age of two for sure.  It was honestly the only way he was able to fall asleep for a very long time.  But his speech is perfect. 

I only know one child who has a speech impediment, one that has required a speech therapist.  And guess what?  He was exclusively breastfed for over a year.  No pacifiers, either.

I am aware that my examples are only anecdotal evidence, but you know what, I”m cranky today.

So really, want to join me in telling these researchers to take their data and shove it?  Come on, you know you want to be crabby with me!

7 Responses to “Like Moms Need More Stuff to Worry About”

  1. La Petite Acadienne Says:

    And evidently breastfed babies are at a higher risk for ear infections. And eggs are bad for us…until they’re not. These studies, whether they’re about kids or adults, are really just getting ridiculous. And it’s a shame, because then if a study comes out that really DOES contain some alarming new development, we’re less likely to pay attention to it.

    And Samuel hates pacifiers too. Sometimes he noms on his fists, and if he’s really upset, I’ll let him suck on my little finger.

  2. gemdiva Says:

    My son was a bottle fed, non-pacifier using, thumb sucking, totally normal child with all the normal childhood illnesses and issues. I say unto the vast pool of researchers out there looking for grant money “Molest us not with your alarmist predictions of doom and hie thee hither to the nearest purveyor of mixed drinks and consume your martini of choice until the urge to terrify mothers everywhere passes.”

  3. marvel Says:

    Also doesn’t address correlation vs causation. (Maybe children with speech disorders are more likely to suck on pacifiers–not the other way around.)

    Ignore the hype. Do what works for you and your kids.

  4. Leigh Says:

    Yeah, those researchers. They really are jerks. Where do they get off studying the oral development of 3 to 5 year olds? Where do they get off trying to learn more about what causes speech impediments in young kids? And where does the National Institutes of Health, National Center on Minority and Health Disparities get off funding a study on the differences between the oral abilities of poor kids and rich kids in Chile? And where do these “scientists” get off publishing their data in an open access journal so that anybody who wants to read their study can? The audacity. The sheer, sheer audacity. What IS the world coming to?

    Okay. Sorry. Sarcasm off. Glinda, you said this research made you cranky. Well, this post, plus the comments made ME cranky. Why are you attacking the researchers? Their goal, I’m sure, was not to try to scare the already worried moms out there. Most people go into science because they want to study interesting problems, add more knowledge to the world, and probably most of all, help people by finding out new stuff that might be useful. (But maybe they should drop these goals and just go drink, as gemdiva most insultingly put it.) I should know this, since I’M a scientist (chemistry, not medicine or social science, but some things are universal). I think you’re pointing the finger in the wrong place in that regard, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

    First, details of the actual study. I had to search for it, since there was no link provided. Of the few media outlets who reported on it, the LA Times and CBC news were the two most reputable that I found. Neither of those said much, so I sought out the original study. It was published in a medical journal called BMC Pediatrics, and like I mentioned above, it was a study done in Chile that wanted to see if bottles and/or pacifiers had anything to do with speech impediments in young kids. They also wanted to see if there is a difference between low income kids and higher income kids. They also mentioned in the paper that past studies on this and related subjects have been highly inconclusive, hence this new one.

    They tested 128 in three different preschools. Of those, about half had used pacifiers and 20% had sucked their fingers BEFORE THE AGE OF NINE MONTHS (something that seemed to be omitted for the media stories I saw). They tested how well the kids spoke by showing them flashcards and asking them to repeat words the researchers were saying.

    What they found–delaying use of a pacifier or bottle until after 9 months ON AVERAGE decreased the risk of speech impediments by 1/3. Ditto for finger sucking. Being breast-fed didn’t lead to any found increased risk in speech impediments.

    Problems with this study: a) sample size–they only tested 128 kids. That is not very many. If the number were more like 1000, I would have been more comfortable with the data. b) They didn’t go into detail what kind of speech impediments they were looking for, nor how many kids that didn’t suckle anything but breasts had. c) This was a one-time study–they did not follow these kids over time. So did the ones with speech impediments eventually grow out of them? What’s the long term impact here? Not mentioned.

    Because of these factors, I think this was another inconclusive study. So if I were you, I wouldn’t worry about it. The risk they found seems small anyway, and might not be found again in later studies. Which might lead to the phenomena that La Petite Acadienne mentioned—one day something is good, the next something is bad, etc. Yep, this totally exists. And it is confusing, I get that. But it’s the way science is. Let me ‘splain.

    No there is too much, let me sum up.

    Our knowledge about things is forever changing. Every day, more studies are being done and technology is getting better. So we can get more and better data which lets us come to new and better conclusions. Maybe we learn we were wrong about something in the past, and then correct it. That’s what progress is. (A really REALLY awesome kids’ book about this is called Boy Were We Wrong About the Dinosaurs—it talks about scientists’ ever changing theories about the paleontological record. Get it from the library and read it to your kids—you’ll both enjoy it.)

    So when conflicting stories come out in the media about butter for instance, that’s only showing that progress is happening. Why you are confused, that’s another story. And also, I think, why Glinda is mad.

    The media.

    Hoo boy. Don’t really know where to start here. Except to say this—yes, I am a scientist. But I’m also a journalist. So I know a bit about what goes on in newsrooms. For instance, science stories are increasingly being written by people who have no background in a science discipline. So a lot of times, these stories are not being reported properly, which sometimes causes the information to be confusing and not exactly correct.

    Compounding the problem is that many media outlets are going through serious financial issues right now, and the science desk is one of those that tends to be cut first. For example, CNN fired its entire science staff a few months ago, all reporters and producers.

    They’re also one of the biggest examples of media that uses scare tactics to get people to watch (and who I really think you should be mad at, Glinda). “Can your own spit be slowly killing you? Film at 11!” Was the original research about this? Probably not. Many media outlets tend to skew data and tweak headlines to be more dramatic. (Hilarious example: They do this to get viewers, of course. And the problem is, it generally works. Would you want to know if something you thought was harmless really was hurting you or your kids? Of course you would. So you watch their tripe. And sometimes you get scared.

    I guess the only way to get around this is to get your news from reputable sources. The NY Times and NPR come to mind. But since ONLY using those sources is probably impossible, you have to make sure to put your bullshit meter on. Question everything. Become like a scientist yourself. It is kind of fun, after all.

    (Sorry for the mondo long comment, Glinda. It would not surprise me if you didn’t post it for that reason. But let me know if you don’t, ok? I’d hate for you not to post this for what I said, because I think it’s really important. Obviously. 🙂 )

  5. Glinda Says:

    Leigh, you are right in that the media is probably more to blame than the researchers themselves. I do get tired of all the headlines that scream at parents about the “wrong thing du jour” based on this or that study.

    I wasn’t aware that it was only 128 children, for me that is too tiny of a sample to be representative of anything.

    But since you are a scientist, mayhap you can help us understand why studies like this are done with such a small sampling in the first place? Or ones that don’t have proper follow-up? Just because they can?

    Perhaps that is part of the problem as well.

  6. Leigh Says:

    I think the main reason for limiting a study is money, or lack thereof. It’s amazing how much cash you need just to do a couple of simple experiments. Most scientific government funding agencies don’t have a lot of money right now, so it’s been harder and harder to get what little they do have. Add to that the fact that this study took place in Chile, where it’s likely the university has little money for research as well. So a higher sample size is going to raise the cost. Ditto for drawing it out over a few years. The lab probably just couldn’t afford it. Or didn’t have enough people, which is a product of not having enough money. And they figured the data they got was good enough.

    It was also published in a journal that isn’t really, well, let’s say it’s not on the top of the heap. BMC Pediatrics’ impact factor (a measure of how often the data that it publishes is cited by other scientists, or how important it is) is quite low–1.49. Compare this to Science or Nature, who have impact factors around 50. So BMC Pediatrics is much less…’picky’ of the data it publishes.

    All in all, it just wasn’t a great study. I’m surprised it got any media play at all.

  7. Awesome Mom Says:

    Seirously? Delaying a kid from sucking his thumb or paci until after nine months of age? If your kid is not sucking anything by that age then why try and start the habit?

    I have two very dedicated thumb sucking kids and I tried everything I could to keep them from starting up. Not possible if they want it bad enough. I would not obsess over it and so what if your child needs a bit of speech therapy?

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