Every parent has watched in slow motion horror as their baby’s beloved pacifier has fallen on public ground while out and about. And many parents have probably also used their own spit to suck the pacifier clean, when washing it off properly wasn’t an option. Turns out, this gesture may actually be beneficial to your baby. According to a new study published in Pediatrics and conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, sharing oral bacteria with your bambino may help keep your child from developing allergies including eczema and asthma.
Swapping spit with your kids is often debated across media platforms, scientists and parents. When Alicia Silverstone’s video of pre-chewing her baby’s food went viral, many people expressed both their support and their disapproval in regards to her methods. Though not completely conclusive, the study does draw on the positive relationship between parent-to-child microbial interaction and its promotion of the development of a child’s healthy immune system through established natural diversity of bacteria.
Results of the study unveiled that out of the group of 184 participants, 65 babies whose mother or father sucked on their pacifiers before passing it on to them were significantly less likely to get eczema and asthma at 18 and 36 months. “We think that these bacteria … stimulate the immune system,” said Bill Hesselmar who helped to conduct the study. “And that teaches it how to do its job properly, which includes not overreacting to things like peanuts, pollen and cats.”
Keeping our kids super clean is commendable, but our attempts to keep them germ-free may result in their missing out on necessary “microbes” at an early age. These same microbes that come from exposure to bacteria in the natural environment, including our mouths, have the potential to ward off an array of health issues including asthma and food and skin allergies—conditions that the Center for Disease Control says are on the rise.
Subsequently, researchers believe that exposure to animals and various microbes at a young age helps to strengthen the immune system. But there are still a few parents who don’t believe the hype and instead choose a more sterile approach to keeping their kids safe from germ intruders. Most likely they won’t be sucking on their baby’s pacifier anytime soon. But it’s worth noting that antibacterials in personal care products are actually linked to higher allergy risk for children.