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10 Gross Things That are Actually Healthy for Baby and Mom

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Most moms are surprised by how gross they get after having kids—so many of us have used our jeans as a handkerchief when the kiddo’s nose runs a river of green. And while we’ve been reared to believe we should steer as clear as we can of grime, dirt and bodily fluids, new research shows that, in general, germs are good stuff. Dirt, spit, snot—if you want your kid to be healthy, you might want to give them a healthy dose of each. Here are some examples of things we think of as gross, but which might actually be good—for you and your baby.

1. Sucking Your Baby’s Pacifier

a blue baby pacifier

Despite the warnings from the New York City Health Department that pacifiers should be cleaned with water and nothing else, many of us have popped a paci into our mama mouths after it falls to the ground. Well, good for us. One recent study published in the journal Pediatrics noted that “Children whose parents ‘cleaned’ their pacifier by sucking it…were less likely to have asthma, eczema, and sensitization at 18 months of age than children whose parents did not use this cleaning technique.”

2. Pre-mastication

a mom kissing her daughter

It’s a terrible sounding name, but it simply means chewing your baby’s food before you put it in her mouth—something that was done for centuries before baby food makers and food mills turned up on the grocery store shelves, and long before Alicia Silverstone garnered 1.8 million hits on YouTube feeding her son Bear from her own mouth. It’s thought that chewing the food helps break it down and transfers those good bacteria from mom’s mouth to babies, therefore potentially reducing food allergies. Of course, there are plenty of people in the opposite camp, who think such methods transfer dangerous microbes from mom to kid.

3. Eating the Placenta

a strawberry smoothie

You heard us right. Some moms eat the placenta that fed their baby for nine months, on the assumption that it contains vital nutrients (no study has yet proved either its benefit or its potential harm), which can then be passed on through breast milk. One popular method is to get it dried and put in capsules (as apparently Mad Men star January Jones did. Others grind it and bake it into other meals, or pop some in a smoothie. And, if you’re not willing to ingest it, you can always plant it under a tree!

4. Dog’s Tongue, Kid’s Face

a dog licking a kids face

Want to reduce the risk of having your kid be allergic to dogs? Get one. Children who grow up with pets might be 50% less likely to develop allergies to them. In fact, the more pets the better. And kids are not just less likely to develop pet allergies, but also common indoor and outdoor allergies, too. Getting some fur, dander and pet saliva in the mix might mean no hay fever or dust allergies.

5. Getting Dirty Down on the Farm

a girl playing with a goat

The leading theory on why kids today have such high rates of allergies—almost 50% of kids have them now—is that we’re not exposed to enough harmful elements, thus not giving kids a chance to exercise their immune systems. The potential cure? Get dirty. Really. With dirt. Specifically: farm dirt. Kids on farms have very low rates of allergies, thanks to their exposure to dust, cows, maybe even the raw milk those cows produce.

6. Fish Milk

fish oil capsules shaped as a fish

You didn’t realize that fish lactate? Well, they don’t, of course, but their oil might be so good for kids’ brain development that you should consider turning your milk fishy. One study showed that 40% of kids fared better in school when they were given fish oil supplements. It’s also known to improve heart health and help with depression and other mental health issues. Now if you could just do something about the flavor… But actually the supplements alone taste like exactly nothing.

7. Spit Shine

a box of tissues

C’mon, you’ve done it. Dabbed your finger with saliva and cleaned kiddo’s grubby cheeks (on those rare occasions when you’ve run out of wipes). Reinvent your relationship to saliva, moms. This is yet another way to introduce those healthy microbes from your mouth to your kid’s immune and digestive systems.

8. Pooping During Labor

a pregnant woman holding her back

Deena H. Blumenfeld, a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, has advice for birthing mothers: If you’re having a vaginal birth—during which your baby will be exposed to a variety of bacteria—don’t forget to poop. “Many mothers will defecate while they are pushing baby out,” she says. “This fecal material, even with the majority of it being wiped away, helps to populate baby's digestive system.” She adds that babies are born with no bacteria—neither good nor bad—so the good probiotics from mom can colonize the intestine during a vaginal birth.

If you have a C-section, work on getting probiotics into their diets. You won’t want to do this through poop, of course. Yogurt is fine.

9. Using Cheap Soap

bacteria under the microscope

Or, okay, not cheap. But if you’ve been drawn to the magic words “anti-bacterial” because you think it’s best for your kiddo, think again. Much the way antibiotics wipe out all the good bacteria along with the bad, anti-bacterial soap can make your child too clean, not allowing his immune system to get its exercise fighting off enemy microbes.

10. Breast Milk, Everywhere

a mom breastfeeding her baby

Yes, we know that breast is best, and that there are myriad nutritional (not to mention emotional) benefits from breastfeeding. But some say that breast milk has plenty of other applications: it’s thought to prevent or treat diaper rash; help heal eczema and other skin problems; or help cure ear infections, with a couple of drops placed artfully in the canal. You still might want to visit a doc, though, since we don’t have proof, and sometimes you need some old fashioned western medicine to stop that ear infection. Plus, some swear it can heal pink eye.

 
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