Today I gave Dr. B the day off (as is stipulated in her imaginary Mommy Shorts benefits contract) but thankfully, the hilarious Lori from In Pursuit of Martha Points did me the honor of temporarily taking her place. You see, in addition to being hilarious, Lori is a certified speech-language pathologist who has recently started Your Child Talking, an online resource for parents who want to facilitate speech and language development for their kids.

Your Child Talking not only includes tips, games and instructions to help develop language for new talkers, it also provides personal video consultations to properly assess your child if you have specific concerns. A great idea since lack of communication skills, as Dr. B has taught us, is one of the biggest reasons that children resort to behaviors such as tantrums, screaming, hitting or biting.

In the spirit of Wednesday's usual Ask Dr. B feature, Lori is answering a question from the lovely Jessica at Four Plus an Angel about pacifiers in their relation to language development. And since my daughter, Mazzy is more than a fan of her binky/paci/soothie/nukky/whatever-you-want-to-call-it-as-long-as-it-is-in-her-mouth-ifier (see picture above), I am all ears…

Dear Lori,

My pediatrician said that I should not let my son use a pacifier in order to get him to talk more. What are your thoughts on this?


Dear Jessica,

The answer is….it depends. (Is that NOT your favorite?)

Research shows that use of a pacifier does not increase the incidence of speech or language delays, although prolonged use (past the age of three) does create risk of teeth malocclusion.

BUT! (You knew there was a “but,” right?)

If you have a child that is struggling with speech or language development, you really want to get rid of anything that might be a barrier. In this case, literally.

This does not mean cold turkey, however. Children use a pacifier to soothe, and you don’t want to radically increase the amount of stress in an environment at the same time you’re trying to help a late talker catch up.

If your child uses the pacifier only to fall asleep at nap or bedtime, there is no impact on speech and language development so don’t worry. Likewise if your child only uses the pacifier during brief periods of stress (a car ride or a trip to the doctor’s office.)

If your child uses the pacifier for more than half their waking hours and is behind in speech and language development, it’s a good idea to start tapering use of the pacifier down so that your child has good opportunities to engage in sound play and unencumbered periods to talk.

If your child uses the pacifier a lot then you’ll need a really good distraction when you begin to insist on pacifier-free times. Fortunately, YOU are one of the most desirable objects in your child’s world. You’ll find that using one-on-one focused play and face time is a pretty good trade-off for the pacifier. When you’re taking a pacifier break, make every minute count. Sit at eye-level, or carry, then talk, sing, make silly sounds and faces. Reinforce every sound and every word your child makes with delight and praise.

Prolong these periods until you have a child that needs the soothing assistance only briefly when awake and you’ll have removed one barrier that may be getting in the way of your child’s inclination to talk.

— Lori


If you have a question for Lori or Dr. B (our resident child development expert), please email me by clicking here. PBAXA6MDP5FY