Dummy facts

8th October 2004 at 01:00
Your article ("Dummies stifle talk as well as tears", TES, September 24) misrepresents the paper I presented to the British Educational Research Association.

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

The paper states clearly that research on long-term dummy use is scanty, sometimes contradictory, based on small studies and not widely disseminated.

I explain that "there seems to be enough evidence to suggest that dummy use beyond one year has potential for damage" and go on to indicate that further research is needed.

Second, I feel the quotation from the mother happy with her child's dummy use should have been balanced by quotes from my paper by mothers who did not use or disliked using them.

Third, I did not state that "many (mothers) are reluctant to engage in baby talk". I suggested that many are unsure whether baby talk is beneficial - which is completely different. Many of the mothers engaged in baby talk but were unsure of its benefits.

After my presentation, there was a lively debate about dummy use where I made clear I would not want mothers to feel guilty about using a dummy in the first year of life - but perhaps long-term use should be more actively discouraged. Some participants gave wonderful examples of how early-years providers do just that.

I am disappointed that your paper, which I read weekly, gave such a negative image of the mothers who welcomed me into their homes to help the research.

Judy Whitmarsh School of education University of Wolverhampton

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