Pacifiers can be a godsend for some parents. But a new study is focusing on an aspect most parents don't think about when it comes to binkies: germs. Pacifiers "can be teeming with bacteria, yeast and mold that can actually sicken babies rather than soothe them," Time magazine reports.
A contaminated pacifier grows a biofilm, which the researchers describe as a "slimy coating of bacteria that changes the normal microbe balance in the mouth and is particularly resistant to antibiotics, according to the research as reported in the Time article.
The study tested 10 used pacifiers from healthy infants and seven new pacifiers. Five of the used binkies were only slightly contaminated, while the other five "were overrun with up to 100 million colony-forming units of 40 different types of bacteria" that could lead to staph infections, food poisoning, bacterial pneumonia and fungus, according to the Time report. "One pacifier had four different strains of staph, which can cause skin infections or, in more serious cases, sepsis."
However, plenty of health experts and parents are not worried about the latest findings and remain skeptical. One parent quoted in the Time article says she feels like the study is just meant to scare parents unnecessarily. In addition, she and some health experts are skeptical about the overemphasis on extreme cleanliness and point out that a dirty pacifier may be a good thing because it helps a child build up his or her immune system.
So if your baby spits out his or her pacifier on the floor or another surface, what should you do? Experts suggest giving dirty pacifiers a good wash with dish soap and cold water and then letting them air dry; or soak in a solution of baking soda and water, then rinse and air dry. Keep a stash of clean binkies on hand in a plastic bag if you're out and about with your infant. When your baby spits one out and you don't have a spare, researchers say to wipe off the dropped pacifier with a tissue because it helps prevent the buildup of biofilm.
One thing to keep in mind: "Popping them in your mouth to clean them off before returning them to baby isn't advisable. … [And] toss away used ones every two weeks, by which point pacifiers have become 'maximally contaminated,'" according to the Time article.
These latest findings are just adding to the debate over pacifiers. Recently, a study found that pacifiers actually encouraged breastfeeding. Check out our Pacifiers Pros and Cons page for the good and the bad about giving your baby a binkie.
So when it comes to pacifiers, binkies, pacis (or whatever they're called at your house), you make the call.