Sucking on your child’s soother might help bolster their immune system

16 Nov 2018

Image: © Elantseva/

Cleaning your child’s soother by sucking on it might sound unpleasant to some, but it could give kids a serious health boost.

Research from the Henry Ford Health System soon to be presented at a conference claims that, when it comes to developing a healthy immune system in a child, a parent sharing their bodily fluids with the infant might be the best solution.

While other studies have linked breastfeeding with the prevention of asthma-related conditions developing in children, this latest study suggests there might be another way – using a common baby item.

According to the team’s findings, babies whose parents sucked on their child’s soother to clean it had a lower level of the antibody linked to the development of allergies and asthma. Theorising why this might be, the researchers think parents are passing healthy oral bacteria from their saliva to the child, bolstering their immune system.

“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,” said Dr Eliane Abou-Jaoude, lead author of the study.

“From our data, we can tell that the children whose pacifiers were cleaned by their parents sucking on the pacifier, those children had lower immunoglobulin E levels around 10 months of age through 18 months of age.”

Good starting point for more research

The study involved 128 mothers who were asked whether they cleaned their child’s soother by sterilising it in boiling water or a dishwasher; rinsing with soap and water; or sucking on it. Of this number, 30 said they sterilised it, 53 cleaned with soap and water, and nine sucked on the soother.

While the researchers throw caution towards categorically proving that sucking on a soother will boost a child’s immune system in all cases, their research offers similar findings to a 2013 Swedish study that also reported a correlation between the two.

That study, published to the journal Pediatrics, involved 206 pregnant women, with 187 of their born children included in the research. All of the families involved had at least one parent with an allergic condition.

At the time, the authors of this study expressed concern that the results might not be widely applicable because its participants were all from Sweden where genetic diversity is not so high.

By finding similar results in the US, scientists now hope to conduct further research elsewhere to confirm whether there is a direct cause and effect in play.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic