Video: Sucking Your Baby’s Pacifier May Benefit Their Health, Study Finds

by NCN Health And Science Team Posted on November 18th, 2018

Houston, Texas, USA : Many parents probably think nothing of sucking on their baby’s pacifier to clean it after it falls to the ground. Turns out, doing so may benefit their child’s health.

A Henry Ford Health System study found that babies whose parents sucked on their pacifier to clean it had a lower level of the antibody that is linked to the development of allergies and asthma.

Researchers theorize parents may be passing healthy oral bacteria in their saliva that will affect the early development of their child’s immune system.

The study is being presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology meeting in Seattle.

“Although we can’t say there’s 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,” says Eliane Abou-Jaoude, M.D., a Henry Ford allergist fellow and the study’s lead author.

“From our data, we can tell that the children whose pacifiers were cleaned by their parents sucking on the pacifier, those children had lower IgE levels around 10 months of age through 18 months of age.”

The retrospective study is believed to the first of its kind in the United States to evaluate the association between pacifier cleaning methods and the antibody Immunoglobulin E, or IgE. IgE is linked to the development of allergies and asthma. The findings are compatible with those from a 2013 Swedish study, which reported an association between parents sucking on their baby’s pacifier with a reduced risk of allergy development.

The Henry Ford study involved 128 mothers who were asked about how they cleaned their baby’s pacifier: Sterilizing it in boiling water or dishwasher, cleaning it with soap and water and sucking on it. Among the three methods, 30 mothers sterilized it, 53 cleaned it with soap and water and nine sucked on the pacifier.

Researchers compared the babies’ IgE levels at birth, six months and 18 months for each cleaning method, and found a “significantly lower level IgE level for babies at 18 months” whose mothers sucked on the pacifier to clean it. Additional analyses indicated the differences were first seen at about 10 months.

Dr. Abou-Jaoude cautions parents from concluding that sucking on their baby’s pacifier to clean it will lower their child’s risk of developing allergies. More research is needed to examine that potential correlation, Dr. Abou-Jaoude says.

The study was funded by Henry Ford Health System.

Video : Eliane Abou-Jaoude, M.D., a Henry Ford Health System allergist fellow and the study’s lead author.

Video credit : Henry Ford Health System

A second study found that parents who suck on their infants’ pacifiers may protect their children against developing allergies. Researchers in Sweden also concluded the “parental sucking of their infant’s pacifier may reduce the risk of allergy development, possibly via immune stimulation by microbes transferred to the infant via the parent’s saliva.”

Parents who suck on their infants’ pacifiers may protect their children against developing allergies

Swedish researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, report that a simple habit may give significant protection against allergy development, namely, the parental sucking on the baby’s pacifier.

Allergies are very common in industrialized countries. It has been suggested that exposure to harmless bacteria during infancy may be protective against the development of allergy. However, it has been difficult to pinpoint which bacteria a baby should be exposed to, and at what time and by which route this exposure should ideally occur.

Swedish researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, now report that a simple habit may give significant protection against allergy development, namely, the parental sucking on the baby’s pacifier.

In a group of 184 children, who were followed from birth, the researchers registered how many infants used a pacifier in the first 6 months of life and how the parents cleaned the pacifier. Most parents rinsed the pacifier in tap water before giving it to the baby, e.g., after it had fallen on the floor. However, some parents also boiled the pacifier to clean it. Yet other parents had the habit of putting the baby’s pacifier into their mouth and cleaning it by sucking, before returning it to the baby.

It was found that children whose parents habitually sucked the pacifier were three times less likely to suffer from eczema at 1.5 years of age, as compared with the children of parents who did not do this. When controlled for other factors that could affect the risk of developing allergy, such as allergy in the parents and delivery by Caesarean section, the beneficial effect of parental sucking on the pacifier remained.

Pacifier use per se had no effect on allergy development in the child. Boiling the pacifier also did not affect allergy development in a statistically proven fashion.

No more upper respiratory infections were seen in the children whose parents sucked on their dummies, as compared with the other children, as evidenced by diaries kept by the parents in which they noted significant events, such as infections.

Saliva is a very rich source of bacteria and viruses, and the researchers believe that oral commensal microbes are transferred from parent to infant when they suck on the same pacifier. When the composition of the bacterial flora in the mouth was compared between infants whose parents sucked on their pacifiers and those whose parent did not, it was found to differ, supporting this hypothesis.

According to “the hygiene hypothesis”, the development of allergy can be attributed in part to a paucity of microbial stimulation during early infancy.

“Early establishment of a complex oral microflora might promote healthy maturation of the immune system, thereby counteracting allergy development”, says professor Agnes Wold who led the study.

The study, which is published in the scientific journal Pediatrics, was performed by a team that consisted of paediatricians specialized in allergic diseases, as well as microbiologists and immunologists. The research team has previously conducted large-scale studies on the gut microbiota in relation to allergy development and showed in 2009 that a complex gut microbiota very early in life reduces the risk of allergy development.

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