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Has Your Baby Made You a Germaphobe?

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Health, Wellness, & Safety

Funny how you weren’t all that worried about germs until the baby arrived. Now bacteria seem to be everywhere! Part of this change of perception is the very messy life of a newborn, full of poop, pee, spit up, and that dampish dirt that gathers in the creases under her chin.

So it is refreshing to read a new study in Pediatrics that suggests licking off a dropped pacifier is not only safe for the baby but actually contributes to the baby’s good health. Children whose parents routinely sucked a pacifier clean were much less likely to develop allergies, including eczema, a common early allergy marker, than were children whose parents boiled the pacifier or just ran it under water.

This is just another indication of what other studies have found before: that when it comes to small children being a little bit germy is better than being squeaky clean. Previous studies have found that children who play outside in the dirt are healthier than kids kept nice and neat and that babies raised with cats are less likely to develop allergies to pet hair than children raised without animals. Clearly, our obsession with germs could use some relaxation.

The one set of germs parents should be wary of are the germs that cause preventable childhood diseases. Babies should get their scheduled vaccinations, since the illnesses they block can cause serious complications with lifelong consequences. In addition, parents should be careful of the quality of water used to make formula and the quality and safety of foods fed to small children. Bacteria lurking in poor hygiene can be deadly. But ordinary, everyday sorts of bugs – the kind found on your kitchen floor, on the sidewalk under the stroller, and on the green grass – not so much.

Did your child just drop his binkie and is wailing to have it back? No worries. Just lick it off!

© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.