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Sucking Your Baby’s Pacifier May Be Good for Their Health

Pacifiers are pretty popular with babies. They soothe, comfort and help little ones fall asleep. But many parents (and doctors) discourage their usage, as pacifiers can cause breastfeeding problems, and according to the Mayo Clinic, prolonged sucking can lead to dental problems. However, pacifiers may offer an unexpected benefit.

According to a new study, cleaning a baby’s pacifier with parental spit may keep them from developing allergies.

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The study, conducted by the Henry Ford Health System and presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s Annual Scientific Meeting, followed 128 mothers over 18 months. Researchers found that infants who used pacifiers and whose pacifiers were cleaned in/by their mother’s mouth were less likely to carry the IgE antibody — an antibody linked to allergic reactions.

“We found that parental pacifier sucking was linked to suppressed IgE levels beginning around 10 months, and continued through 18 months,” Dr. Edward Zoratti, an allergist and coauthor of the study, said in a statement, and “we believe the effect may be due to the transfer of health-promoting microbes from the parent’s mouth.”

But that’s not all. According to Dr. Eliane Abou-Jaoude, an allergist and the study’s lead author, the act also triggers an immunoresponse that could help these children later in life.

“We know that exposure to certain microorganisms early in life stimulates development of the immune system and may protect against allergic diseases later,” said Abou-Jaoude. As such, “parental pacifier sucking may be an example of a way parents may transfer healthy microorganisms to their young children.”

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That said, it is important to note that correlation is not causation.

“Our study indicates an association between parents who suck on their child’s pacifier and children with lower IgE levels,” Abou-Jaoude explained, “but does not necessarily mean that pacifier sucking causes lower IgE.”

It is also unclear if these lowered production levels impact children later in life.

The good news is that researchers remain hopeful, and additional studies will be conducted.

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