Spit-Cleaning a Baby’s Pacifier for Better Health

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I remember laughing with a friend one day about how a certain older family member thought it was OK to pop her grandchild’s pacifier in her own mouth to make sure it was clean. This usually happened after it was dropped on the floor or ground, and was a way to quickly get off any dirt or grime before giving it back to the baby. The friend and I joked about how can a little dirt be worse than another person’s saliva and germs.

Turns out a new study refutes my assumption that the “spit-clean” paci is all bad. The study, conducted in Sweden, showed that infants who used a pacifier in their first six months who had parents who reported sucking the pacifier to clean it had reduced reports of eczema and asthma at 18 months. 

The study doesn’t say how mom’s and dad’s saliva is protective, or whether it filters out germs, but spit-cleaning the pacifier had no effect on respiratory illness – meaning babies aren’t more likely to get cold or flu viruses from their parents sucking on the paci. How about that! Seems simply by living and breathing on each other, we as families are as likely to spread germs, perhaps even moreso than doing the spit-clean on a pacifier.

From the NBC news report: When parents clean a pacifier with saliva, they’re introducing gut microflora, the microscopic organisms  mostly bacteria – that live in the digestive tract. “We know that if infants have diverse microflora in the gut, then children will have less allergy and less eczema,” says Hesselmar. “When parents suck on the pacifier, they are transferring microflora to the child.” [Dr. Bill Hesselmar of Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden is the lead author of the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.]

So next time you see a mom, dad, grandma or grandpa pop the pacifier in her or his mouth before giving it back to the baby, don’t judge. Nature’s working wonders and they might be helping the child more than we realize.