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Experts: If Baby's Pacifier Falls On The Floor, Clean It In Your Own Mouth

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- If your child's pacifier falls on the floor, what should you do?

Conventional wisdom has long been to clean the pacifier with soap and water before giving it back. But CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez said that's not necessarily the best plan.

In fact, Gomez reported, the best thing to do might be to clean the pacifier in your own mouth and give it back to baby.

Why? The reason is that growing evidence has shown that babies need to have their immune systems challenged, and exercised with some germs. Keeping their environments too clean can lead to a variety of allergic maladies, including eczema and asthma.

Little Abigail Civitano prefers to have a pacifier in her mouth, no matter what she's doing. Abigail's mother said she finds her daughter's pacifier on the floor constantly.

"If I have a sink on hand, I'll rinse it off in the sink or I'll use a water bottle to sort of rinse it, but otherwise I'll put it in my mouth and clean it that way if I have no other option," said Katie Civitano

It may not sound sanitary, but new research shows Abigail's mother could be helping her develop fewer allergies. New research in the journal Pediatrics looked at 184 kids, and found children whose parents sucked on their pacifiers to clean them had a lower risk of developing both eczema and asthma.

"So the theory is here that the parent's saliva, which contains normal bacteria, can actually colonize our children with the good bacteria and that may have incredible health benefits," said Dr. Elissa Rubin of Happy and Healthy Pediatrics.

When it comes to how clean your baby's pacifier should be, use some common sense. If it drops on the floor at home, the study says it is probably fine to use the five-second rule, suck it, and give it to baby.

If the pacifier drops on the street, the rules change. There are some nasty things out there, from oil and gas to things pigeons and other animals leave behind -- things you wouldn't want in your own mouth, never mind your baby's.

"At least once a day, really try to wash the pacifier well -- either on the top rack of the dishwasher or just with hot water and soap," Rubin said.

Rubin also said to throw a pacifier away if it has cracks or tears, because those are perfect places for bacteria to grow.

Previously, parents had been told not to lick pacifiers or even feed their baby with their spoon to keep from passing on the mouth bacteria that causes cavities. But there are so many other ways babies will pick up mom or dad's bacteria that preventing cavity-bacteria is futile.

And there is even more support for the theory that some germs are good for baby – Caesarean section kids also have more eczema, it is thought, because they don't pick up as many microbes as children born vaginally.

More than half of the clean pacifier kids born by C-section had eczema.

So, Gomez said. mom and dad should relax if "binky" hits the floor.

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