If your baby drops a pacifier on the floor, a new study suggests that rather than cleaning it, you stick it in your own mouth and hand it right back to your child.
New research suggests the practice could help reduce allergies as your baby grows.
Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy of Göteborg University in Sweden followed 174 babies and their parents for several years, testing them for allergies, eczema and asthma over time. They also surveyed parents about how they cleaned pacifiers, finding that nearly half of them used their mouths on occasion.
Findings showed that by the time babies were 18 months old, those whose parents sucked their pacifiers had reduced risks of asthma and eczema -- since babies were exposed to their parents' saliva, this stimulated their immune systems, the researchers suggested. At 36 months old, these babies were also less likely to have eczema.
"It's a very interesting study that adds to this idea that a certain kind of interaction with the microbial environment is actually a good thing for infants and children," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University, told The New York Times.
"I wonder if the parents that cleaned the pacifiers orally were just more accepting of the old saying that you've got to eat a peck of dirt. Maybe they just had a less disinfected environment in their homes."
The research was published online May 6 in the journal Pediatrics.