Small Study Suggests Sucking Your Baby’s Pacifier Could Reduce Allergy Risk

Bon Secours Hampton Roads Health System, Women's Health, childbirth, pregnant, pregnancy, midwife, DePaul Midwifery Center, The Family Birth Center, The Mary Immaculate BirthplaceWhen a pacifier falls out of a baby’s mouth some moms sanitize it religiously with soap and water, some moms dust it off on their pants, and some moms pick up the pacifier, put it in their mouth and hand it right back to baby. A new study suggests that the practice of cleaning a pacifier with your mouth may actually be associated with fewer allergies later on.

“This study is very interesting,” said Dr. Christine Franzese, an allergy specialist at DePaul/EVMS Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery in Norfolk Virginia. “It does align with the Hygiene Hypothesis, a theory that allergy development is related to decreasing exposure of harmful agents in our environment.  However, it’s one small study so I generally don’t recommend changing parenting practices until there’s more available evidence.”

Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy of Göteborg University in Sweden followed 174 babies and their parents for several years and tested them for allergies, eczema and asthma. They also asked parents how they cleaned off pacifiers, and found that nearly half of them used their mouths on occasion.

By the time babies were 18 months old, those whose parents sucked their pacifiers were less likely to have asthma and eczema, and the researchers concluded that this was because parents exposed their babies to bacteria in their saliva, stimulating babies’ immune systems. There was also a trend toward a reduction in allergy signs. But by the time babies reached 36 months old, they only had an added protection against eczema.

For some parents, exposing children to bacteria this way might even be detrimental. For instance, parents with herpes or cold sores could pass a virus to their children.

Dr. Franzese isn’t sure that parents should change their behavior based on the study, “Still, if this is something parents are already doing, then the study supports potential benefits to their child.”

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