Your baby’s pacifier drops from her mouth onto the floor. Do you throw the pacifier away, give it a rinse with water or boil it to use again later?
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Or, do you grab it up, clean it in your own mouth, then pop it right back into the baby’s mouth?
If you opt for the latter — as many parents do — a new study suggests sucking on your baby’s pacifier may prevent allergic diseases and other conditions later in life.
Sucking on pacifier may help baby’s immune system
Sweden’s University of Gothenberg researchers followed nearly 200 babies and their parents for several years, testing them for allergies, eczema and asthma. They asked parents how they cleaned off their babies’ pacifiers and discovered nearly half had used their mouths on occasion.
At 18 months, babies whose parents had sucked on their pacifiers were at less risk for symptoms of eczema and asthma.
Researchers concluded that because parents exposed their babies to bacteria in their saliva, the babies’ immune systems were strengthened and the risk of allergy development was reduced.
Allergy prevention proof not established
Brian Schroer, MD, did not participate in the study but is a pediatric allergist at Cleveland Clinic. He warns more studies are needed before there’s proof that sucking on your baby’s pacifier will protect against future allergies.
“The study suggests that there’s an association between exposure to microorganisms from the parents’ mouth and eczema but not true clinical allergies,” says Dr. Schroer.
He adds that the study does join other research which shows that a baby’s exposure to saliva transfer from parents may affect the child’s immune system years later.
“The study show an association between saliva transfer in one form and decreased allergic skin disease,” says Dr. Schroer. “It’s a first step into further and bigger studies that can determine what factors are responsible for the increasing rate of food and environmental allergies in society.”
Any harm in sucking your baby’s pacifier?
The practice of licking and sucking the baby’s pacifier is itself harmless, says Dr. Schroer, similar to parent’s regularly sharing saliva with their kids through kissing, sharing cups and utensils or straws.
“If a parent is comfortable doing it, I would not stop them,” Dr. Schroer says. “It would only be harmful if the parent has active oral disease like herpes, strep or mono. Or if the pacifier fell onto a clearly soiled surface, parents should wash it thoroughly.”