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Dummies stifle talk as well as tears

First-time mothers who give children dummies to keep them quiet are damaging their future language skills, according to research.

Many parents are unaware of evidence that long-term dummy use prevents babies learning sounds which are part of everyday communication, a study presented to Bera found.

Fewer than one in five first-time mothers believed that using a dummy prevented a child from practising sounds.

Lyn, a teenage mother, told researchers: "He has always had a dummy since he was a few days old. When he was in hospital it was the only way to get him to be quiet. And he loves it, he has it all the time."

The study was based on questionnaires and interviews with 50 mothers as part of the evaluation of a Sure Start programme in the Midlands.

Sure Start is a government-funded scheme intended to promote the health and education of families with young children in deprived areas.

Judy Whitmarsh, from Wolverhampton university, described the findings of the study as worrying, and suggested that Sure Start should provide information to parents on the dangers of long-term dummy use.

She told delegates that many first-time mothers see speech and language development as a role for experts. Many are reluctant to engage in baby talk, something research has shown helps babies develop.

But the study found that mothers were likely to show their children books at an early age.

A job for the experts: first-time mothers' views on their role in infant speech and language development by Judy Whitmarsh is available from

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