All About Thumb Sucking

Up to 5% of children will exhibit a speech disorder by the time they reach first grade. In the past, thumb sucking has been believed to cause these speech impairments.

But, according to a new study conducted by the University of Sydney, thumb sucking and pacifiers may not cause speech impairments as previously thought.

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To get to the truth of the matter, we’re going in-depth in this three-part series to talk about the myths about thumb sucking, the truth about thumb sucking, and finally how to break your child’s thumb-sucking habit.

Does thumb-sucking cause speech impairments?

Speech impairment is most commonly found in children is a phonological disorder. Phonological disorder refers to the incorrect pronunciation of words and has long been thought to be caused by (or exacerbated by) the use of pacifiers and thumb sucking action.

Researchers at the University of Sydney recently conducted a study involving 199 Australian preschool children with "sucking behavior" such as thumb sucking, pacifier sucking, and sucking bottles.

The results showed that 58% of the children who participated have used a pacifier. Up to 75% of those who did not use a pacifier used one for 12 months or more.

Dr. Elise Baker, the lead author of the study, said that the study failed to show a correlation between the "sucking" behavior and speech impairment. 

What can we take away from this study?

Because of this study, we now know that "sucking behavior" is not a direct cause of impaired speech. This means we are one step closer to learning the cause of the disorder to improve children's speech development in the future.