There’s no question about it: Kids love to put things in their mouths. Babies especially. After all, they are curious by nature and are discovering the world around them. For most of us, if we saw our child putting rocks or dirt in their mouth, our first instinct would be to stop them. After all, that’s a lot of germs and dangerous bacteria, no? According to this mom, we shouldn’t be so afraid. She has recently gone viral on TikTok with a video of her baby eating dirt. She says it’s good for his immune system. (1)
Mom Says ‘Eating Dirt Is Good For Her Baby’s Immune System‘
Alice Bender, a 22-year-old mom from Arizona, recently posted a now-viral video on TikTok. The video is of her eight-month-old son Fern chewing on various things, including a rock. Her point was to state her stance against the medical industry’s perspective on germs and babies. She says that they have used their multi-million-dollar campaigns to convince people that they need to expose their babies to as few germs as possible. Rather, she says that as long as babies are breastfeeding, they have natural immunity and protection. Parents should be exposing them to more, not sheltering them.
“I do not fear bacteria. In fact, I welcome it. I trust nature and my baby. It is not a coincidence babies have this instinct while they are breastfeeding.” she said in one video.
“Breast Milk Is Better Than Medicine”
Bender says that it is instinctual that babies put things in their mouths while breastfeeding. It is the subconscious knowledge that they have protected thanks to breast milk. This milk, she says, is more powerful than any medicine.
“Breast milk is incredible. Breast milk is the original medicine. It is far superior to any man-made medicine [sic]. Breast milk is alive and constantly changing to meet our babies’ current needs,” she explained.
Bender says that her baby is very healthy. She says that people always comment on how healthy, calm, and alert he is when they are in public. She says that she is raising her child to be vegan and that we should not constantly be at war with nature. We are, after all, nature ourselves, she says.
Naturally, with a subject such as this, people were divided on their opinions. Some were supportive, saying that they, too, allowed their children to eat dirt. They agreed that this is how babies develop their immune systems.
Others, however, had their doubts, and rightfully so. They expressed concerns over things like parasites. After all, they said, it is quite possible that you can get one from consuming dirt. Still, some were halfway. They agreed that dirt wouldn’t hurt, but other places where a baby might encounter germs have them concerned. For example, things such as shopping carts.
Should You Let Your Baby Eat Dirt? No.
Firstly, let’s discuss some nuance here. Should babies and toddlers eat dirt? No. Should babies and toddlers be allowed to get a little dirty (i.e. not live in an overly sanitized world)? Probably. However, the results are decidedly mixed here, as well. Some research says yes, some no. The general consensus is that it is a little bit of both. If our children’s environments are too sterile, they are more likely to develop allergies and inflammatory disorders. At the same time, being exposed to a more natural environment doesn’t mean literally eating dirt. This can expose the child to certain germs, bacteria, and yes, parasites, that you want to avoid. (2)
Many believe that they need to do something to make their child’s immune system stronger. The reality is that you don’t want a stronger immune system per se, you want one that has a regulated, orderly response to invaders. A more natural, less-sterilized environment will achieve that. So while you don’t want your child literally eating dirt, you also shouldn’t feel the need to sanitize everything. (3)
“It turned out that most of the exposures were actually beneficial,” says microbiologist Jack Gilbert. “So that dirty pacifier that fell on the floor — if you just stick it in your mouth and lick it, and then pop it back in little Tommy’s mouth, it’s actually going to stimulate their immune system. Their immune system’s going to become stronger because of it.”
Focus On The Basics
Scientists still all agree that hygiene is important. It is more important, in fact than “exposure to the elements”. Kids should be allowed to pet animals, go outside and get dirty, and play in the mud. Washing up afterward, however, is still important. It doesn’t need to be with antiseptic wipes, just regular soap and water will do. Washing your hands before meals is also still good practice. (4)
Finally, if you really want your children to have a well-functioning immune system, focus on the pillars. A healthy diet, a proper sleeping routine, and an active lifestyle will support your child’s immunity far more than exposures will. So, in summary: Don’t over-sterilize their environment. Let your kids be kids, let them explore. Practice proper hygiene. Lead a healthy lifestyle, and don’t purposely feed them dirt. These will all lead to healthy children and thus healthy adults.
Keep Reading: Parental Burnout: Moms Need Equality In Raising Children, Self-Care, and Most Importantly, Massages.
- “Mum defends letting her baby eat dirt and chew on sand to ‘build his immune system’.” Mirror. Emma Rosemurgey. april 28, 2021.
- “‘Dirt Is Good’: Why Kids Need Exposure To Germs.” NPR. Lulu Garcia-Navarro. July 16, 2017.
- “Is Playing In The Dirt Good For Kids’ Immune Systems?” Forbes. Quora. January 17, 2018.
- “Hygiene and Cleanliness Won’t Impair Childhood Immunity, Study Finds.” Very Well Family. Alexandra Frost. July 28, 2021.