A shocking new study completed by Swedish researchers and published in the journal Pediatrics found that parents who pick up a dropped pacifier and suck it clean may be helping their infants become better germ fighters.
Crazy, right? We didn't believe it at first either! But you can't ignore the research. Here's what they found:
Researchers in Sweden studied 184 infants at the age of four months old. Scientists collected saliva samples from each infant to determine which times of bacteria resided in baby's guts. At six months old, parents were asked to report on whether their infants used pacifiers and how moms and dads cleaned them. At ages 18 and 36 months old, researchers checked back in with parents to see if the babies had developed allergies and when their first symptoms appeared.
By 18 months old, 25% of babies whose parents did not clean baby's pacifier with their own saliva had eczema, 15% had developed some type of food allergy and 5% had been diagnosed with asthma. Compared to babies whose parents did suck baby's pacifier clean, these infants were one-third less likely to develop eczema. At the age of 3 years old, these children were still less likely to develop eczema than their peers.
Beyond just cleaning off baby's pacifier, researchers also looked for correlations between how a mother delivered baby and her tendency to suck the pacifiers clean. Moms who gave birth vaginally tended to favor the cleaning practice more than C-section moms. In a previous study, researchers concluded that vaginally-delivered babies are already exposed to more maternal bacteria as they traveled through the birth canal.
From the current study, researchers found that infants whose parents used their tongues to clean off baby's binky were more likely to have different strands of bacteria, with more helpful bacteria in their intestines, than babies whose parents did not use their tongue to clean off baby's bink. "Parental sucking of their infant's pacifier is associated with a reduced risk of allergy development and an altered oral flora in their child," researchers noted.
One of the main concerns of the study was whether or not parents who chose to sanitize baby's binky with their own saliva were passing on more germs and harmful infections to their little ones, but it turns out that it was just the opposite. Researchers found that all of the babies involved in the study developed an average of one and a half colds in the first six months of life. What do you think, mom and dad? How should you clean baby's pacifier?