Take that thing out of your mouth!
Our tongue is essential to many of our daily functions, so it’s no surprise that it is the focus of much of our earliest explorations. Some babies have even been observed to suck their thumb while in their mother’s womb! In our first months, it is normal to place our fingers, and for a brief time, other objects into our mouth to test out what our mouths our capable of. New research by University of British Columbia’s School of Audiology and Speech Sciences recently tested the motor theory of speech perception.
What did the study say?
Basically, what this means is that when the tongue is not able to move, it is more difficult to distinguish between speech sounds. When children were given teething toys, which restrict the tongue tip’s movement, the babies were unable to distinguish between two similar but distinct Hindi-language sounds. When the teether was removed, the babies were able to make the distinction (ASHA, 2015).
What does that mean for me?
The message here is not necessarily that you should never give your child a teething toy. On the other hand, we want to give our babies the most tongue movement possible, so some general guidelines are:
- limited pacifier usage after 4 months, unless medical feeding issues are present
- if you think your child has a tongue tie, seek a professional opinion and follow through with recommendations so that tongue tip has free movement
- eliminate thumb/finger sucking if present after 2 years
- get rid of bottles by 1 year; switch to an open cup, like the Oxo training cup
Speech Pathologist’s Tip: make sure the sippy cup is used as a transition–not a “forever” cup!
For more tips to help your baby thrive, contact me! I’d love to chat.