Sucking Baby’s Pacifier May Have Health Benefits, Detroit Study Says

A Henry Ford Health System report finds that when a mom opts for sucking baby's pacifier to clean it, her child may have lower odds of developing issues like allergies and asthma.

Does your child have a pacifier? Then you know what it’s like to be out and about and have that soothing security item take a tumble to the ground – especially if your child is mid-tantrum. And if you opt for sucking baby’s pacifier to quickly clean it off in such cases, it could actually have some health benefits.

A Henry Ford Health System study released in late 2018 shows that out of 128 moms, nine “cleaned” the pacifier by sucking on it.

And it found these babies had a “lower level of the antibody that is linked to the development of allergies and asthma,” HFHS notes in a press release.

It’s important to note that this Detroit study does not hold any recommendations – and parents should not change the way they clean their child’s pacifier. But it does bring to light some very interesting findings.

Possible benefits of sucking baby’s pacifier

“This is not cause and effect, and we are not recommending that anyone change anything that they are already doing when it comes to cleaning their child’s pacifier,” says Eliane Abou-Jaoude, a Henry Ford allergy fellow and the study’s lead author.

In the study, the moms were asked about their pacifier cleaning methods. Namely, whether they sterilized it in boiling water or the dishwasher, cleaned it with soap and water – or sucked on it.

Of the tallied results, 30 mothers sterilized the pacifier, 53 used the soap and water method and nine sucked on their child’s pacifier as a way to clean it.

Abou-Jaoude says the study also compared the babies’ immunoglobulin E, or IgE, levels. These are antibodies that help protect the body from illnesses and allergens. Higher IgE levels can signify a greater risk for allergies, asthma and eczema.

“The IgE levels were lower in the babies whose parents cleaned the pacifier by sucking on it,” said Abou-Jaoude. She noted the levels were checked at birth, 6 months and 18 months.

Abou-Jaoude said parents may be passing healthy oral bacteria to their children through their saliva on the pacifier.

In this study, the IgE levels weren’t specific for any particular type of allergy, but were looked at in general – as the higher levels typically indicate some type of allergy or asthma.

An open door for more research

“We are not recommending parents do this, by any means,” Abou-Jaoude reemphasizes. “Parents can also give children bad bacteria, like herpes and mouth infections, as well as the good bacteria.”

She says that while the study doesn’t provide any specific actions parents can take to help reduce their children’s risk for allergies, asthma and eczema, it does show that the best hygiene, cleanliness and sterile environments don’t mean the children will be the healthiest later on.

The study opens the door for more research, Abou-Jaoude says, and a larger study looking at how exposure to certain microbes can impact allergies later on in life.

Abou-Jaoude is planning a larger study with a second cohort of babies that will measure association and include things like environmental factors.

The study supports findings from 2013 Swedish research of the same nature.

The HFHS study also shows that children were less likely to have asthma, eczema or allergies at 18 months of age if their parents had cleaned their pacifier by sucking on it.

Have you ever tried this cleaning tactic for your baby’s binky? What are your thoughts on this study? Let us know in the comments.

This post was originally published in 2018 and is updated regularly.


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