What's your first instinct when your baby's pacifier accidentally drops to the floor? You quickly pick it up, of course. Thenyou probably wipe the pacifier on your shirt or use a wet tissue. Some of wash it immediately under running water if it's accessible. Now did you know that some moms just plop the binky in their mouths for a quick cleanup?
It might seem odd — okay, a big no-no from many of you — to use your saliva to "clean" your baby's pacifier. But a new (small) study, presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, suggested it MIGHT not as bad for your little one's well-being as many would think.
Researchers interviewed 128 moms of babies about how they cleaned their baby's pacifier over a period of 18 months. Most of the moms who let their baby use a binky cleaned it by hand washing. Some moms cleaned it by sterilization, and the least popular way of cleaning a pacifier was via a mom's saliva.
The results? "We found the children of mothers who sucked on the pacifier had lower IgE [immunoglubin E] levels," said Dr. Eliane Abou-Jaoude, the lead study author and a fellow at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, via a news release. "Parental pacifier sucking was linked to suppressed IgE levels beginning around 10 months, and continued through 18 months," she added.
IgE is an antibody that our immune system produces when it overreacts to an allergen. Allergens, such as pet dander, dust, dairy, nuts, are substances that trigger an allergic reaction. The more IgE levels in the body means the person has a higher risk for developing allergies and asthma, Abou-Jaoude explained.
So, in this context, cleaning a pacifier in a mother's mouth is not about cleaning but passing on good bacteria. "The idea is that the microbes you're exposed to in infancy can affect your immune system's development later on in life," Dr, Abou-Jaoude told CNN.
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Several past studies have shown that exposure to bacteria and possible allergens early in life early on in life may help prevent having allergies or asthma all together. Health experts used to advise parents to delay giving peanut-containing food to their baby well after his third birthday. New guidelines now recommend doing at an even younger age.
Abou-Jaoude warns, however, that the link is not a cause-and-effect relationship. "We can say the microbes a child is exposed to early on in life will affect their immune system development," she said. It doesn't mean, however, that a child will not have allergies or asthma if his or her mom cleans his pacifier by mouth.
The study is relatively small, and there are other factors that the researchers have not accounted for, which warrants further studies.
At the end of the day, it's up to you, moms and dads. What do you consider an efficient way of cleaning your baby's pacifier?