Speech and Language view on Beckham Dummy Debate

David Beckham’s daughter Harper is still using a dummy at the age of 4 – Who cares, right?

Wrong!

Thousands of worried parents and professionals have taken to twitter and are wading into the dummy debate with various opinions. Most are worried that Harper is too old to be still using a dummy to self-soothe.

But shouldn’t it be up to the parents to make a decision about how and when to wean their child off the pacifier?

Let’s face it, asking any child to kick the dummy habit is hard work. As a Speech and Language Therapist I am often asked to give advice about whether it’s really that bad or whether it’s ok for children to have in certain situations.

It all comes down to this, most parents, including the Beckham’s, are doing their absolute best to balance a busy lifestyle with keeping their babies happy. I provide parents with the facts and leave it up to them to make their own decisions.

There are exceptions to this of course, where children are demonstrating eating and drinking difficulties, or certain types of articulation difficulties I would always recommend giving up the dummy sooner rather than later.

So what are Dummies actually for?

Dummies are a comfort to small crying babies during their first few months of life as babies have a strong natural reflex for sucking at this time. Babies enjoy the rhythmical sucking; it feels nice and often sends them to sleep.

At around 4 months, when babies are being weaned onto semi solid food, they begin to learn how to chew. Around this time they also start to explore other different movements they can make with their mouths. This helps them learn to speak and eat properly.

Ideally, at around 4 months this would be the time to reduce the amount the dummy is used so that once your baby is a year old they no longer need a dummy. Perhaps use the dummy just at night or for napping during the day.

Sadly, the bottom line is this: If your child is using a dummy over the age of 12 months it may…

  • Slow down how quickly they learn to talk
  • Reduce how clear their speech is
  • Affect the way their teeth grow
  • Increase the amount they dribble as they will find it harder to put their lips together and swallow

Remember though there is no evidence to suggest Harper uses her dummy all the time, and as David himself says she was feeling poorly. Not everyone can be a super parent all the time!

I am pleased the dummy debate is being talked about in the mainstream, but I think we should cut the Beckham’s a bit of slack on this occasion.

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