Popping your baby’s pacifier into your own mouth might do more than just clean it off — doctors say it might help prevent your child from developing allergies and asthma.
That’s according to a new study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, from the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan. The study found that parents who suck on their baby’s pacifier to clean it might have been boosting their baby’s health.
The scientists tracked 128 moms over the first year and a half of their babies’ lives, and asked them how they cleaned pacifiers, according to Today.
Only a small percentage of moms sucked on the pacifiers to clean them — but the babies of those who did had lower levels of IgE when doctors tested their blood after 10 months, according to the site.
The doctors said babies who had their pacifiers sucked on by their mom more often had lower levels of Immunoglobulin E, or IgE, an antibody connected with allergy and asthma development, according to a news release.
“Although we can’t say there’s a cause and effect relationship, we can say the microbes a child is exposed to early on in life will affect their immune system development,” Eliane Abou-Jaoude, the study’s lead author, said in the release. “From our data, we can tell that the children whose pacifiers were cleaned by their parents sucking on the pacifier, those children had lower IgE levels around 10 months of age through 18 months of age.”
The research has some backup. A 2013 study found that children whose parents cleaned their pacifiers by sucking on them had a lower chance of developing asthma and eczema. They said the reason was probably because of microbes being transferred to the baby in the mom’s saliva.
Other research has shown that child health can be improved in other ways when microbes from the mother are transferred to the infant, such as through breastfeeding.
But the doctors warn that the study doesn’t mean that sucking on the pacifier will prevent allergies altogether — or whether children will develop new ones later.
“Based on these levels, you can’t really tell what’s going to happen to these kids in the future,” Abou-Jaoude said, according to CNN. “All is we know is, people with allergies, they usually have higher levels of IgE antibodies. But that doesn’t mean that if you have high IgE, you’re definitely going to have allergies.”
Parents also need to be aware that if they’re sick, “bad bacteria can be transferred by a parent sucking on the pacifier and then giving it to their child, exposing them to other infections,” Abou-Jaoude said, according to Today.