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 even 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 mouths to test out what our mouths are capable of. New research by the University of British Columbia’s School of Audiology and Speech Sciences recently tested the motor theory of speech perception with a teething toy.
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 the children were given a teething toy that restricted the tongue’s movement, the babies were unable to distinguish between two similar Hindi-language sounds. When they removed the toy, 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.