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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sucking on Your Baby's Soother...Good Practice or Bad Habit?


Allergies are very common in industrialized countries. Children in industrialized countries typically live in cleaner environments and are exposed to less bacteria. Researchers believe that exposure to bacteria helps protect children from developing allergies.  Researchers are interested in what families do that may affect the development of their baby’s immune system. Some parents clean their baby’s soother by putting it in their own mouth before giving it back to the child.  Is this healthy for the child?

Research question:  Does a parent sucking on their baby’s soother to clean it have an affect on the development of allergies in the baby?  

What was done:
Researchers in Sweden followed 184 children from birth to 3 years. 80% of the children had at least one parent with allergies putting the children at higher risk for also developing allergies.

Families were interviewed at birth and again 6 months later.

Researchers collected the following information:
·         the baby’s use of soothers (pacifiers)
·         method of cleaning the pacifier (tap water, boiling or the parent putting it in their own mouth)
·         information about the child’s health, diet and medication use for the first year
·         how the baby was born (vaginally or by cesarean section)
·         type and amount of bacteria in the baby’s and mother’s saliva

A pediatric allergist assessed the children at 18 months and at 3 years to see if they had developed environmental or food allergies, eczema or asthma.

Children were divided into 2 groups:
·         Parents who cleaned the pacifier by boiling it or with tap water
·         Parents who cleaned the pacifier by sucking on it before giving it back to the baby

Being born vaginally offered some protection against the development of asthma.

Parents sucking on the baby’s soother also offered some protection against the development of asthma.

These two factors together offered the most protection.

Viral infections, such as colds, did not seem to get passed on to the child by the parents putting the pacifier in their own mouth.

Children whose parents sucked the pacifier were three times less likely to have eczema and asthma at 1.5 years of age, as compared with the children of parents who did not do this.

Children need to be exposed to bacteria to develop a healthy immune system.
Saliva is a good source of viruses and bacteria and sucking on a baby’s soother may be a good way to expose young children to bacteria that is needed.

In the future, will doctors recommend this habit to parents of children at high risk of developing allergies?  More research is still needed to help determine this.

PEDIATRICS, volume 131, number 6, June 2013, Pacifier Cleaning Practices and Risk of Allergy Development. Hesselmar B, Saalman R, Aberg N, Adlerberth I, Wold A.

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