Pacifier, baby bottle or thumb sucking may hamper a child’s speech development if the habit goes on too long, says a new study.

The children were more likely to have difficulty producing certain word sounds and to simplify their pronunciation.

A team led by Clarita Barbosa from Corporacion de Rehabilitacion Club De Leones Cruz Del Sur in Patagonia, Chile, conducted the study with University of Washington (UW) Multidisciplinary International Research Training (MIRT).

Looking at a group of 128 children aged three to five years, researchers gathered parents’ reports of each child’s feeding and sucking behaviours during infancy and evaluated the child’s speech.

They found that delay in giving a baby bottle until the child was at least nine-month-old reduced the risk of their developing speech disorders, while children who sucked their fingers or who used a pacifier for more than three years, were three times more likely to develop speech impediments.

“These results suggest extended sucking outside of breast-feeding may have detrimental effects on speech development in young children,” says Barbosa.

This finding is particularly relevant as the use of baby bottles and pacifiers has increased over the past few decades, said an UW release.

Previous research also has suggested that breast feeding may be beneficial to developing coordinated breathing, swallowing and speech articulation.

The results were published in the Wednesday edition of BMC Paediatrics.