Strengthening Baby's Immune System
Of all the reasons to breastfeed, perhaps number one is that it can strengthen your baby’s immune system. Time and time again, studies have shown this to be true.
But as with most things health-related, there’s a lot more to know about the breastfeeding-immunity relationship. We dug into your top questions to explore this pretty awesome phenomenon.
What is the immune system?
Let’s get back to basics! Your immune system is the network of cells, molecules, and tissues that defend your body against infections. When a bacteria, virus, or other germ enters the body, it’s the job of white blood cells to go after it. As part of this immune response, they produce antibodies that are specific to that infection. They also
remember the attack, so your body can fight it more easily next time. You can build immunity by either getting sick or getting a vaccine, which triggers your immune response against a certain illness.
The study of the immune system is called immunology, and medical professionals who specialize in it are called immunologists.
How do babies build immunity?
From the moment they are born, babies are very busy getting used to the outside world. This includes developing a healthy immune system. Babies produce their own antibodies every time they are exposed to an illness, but it takes time for this immunity to fully develop. In the meantime, young babies are very susceptible to getting sick.
What role does breastmilk play?
Breastmilk is a perfect source of nutrition for your baby—and a whole lot more. It contains antibodies and other substances that help support their immune system. Colostrum, the special milk you produce in the days after delivery, is especially rich with infection-fighting proteins. That’s why colostrum is often called baby’s “first vaccine.”
What can weaken a baby’s immune system?
Babies can have weak immune systems for several reasons. These include prematurity, chromosomal abnormalities, allergies, and autoimmune disorders. Malnutrition, lack of sleep, and environmental factors can also play a role. Breastmilk can be especially important for babies with weakened immune systems. Talk to your pediatrician if you are concerned about your little one’s health.
What can I do to strengthen my baby’s immune system?
Feeding an infant breastmilk is the best thing you can do to help them build up these natural defenses. Ideally, baby will consume only breastmilk for the first six months. Once they graduate to solids, offer them fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods.
It’s also important to keep up with vaccines that shield against certain diseases. Follow your pediatrician’s recommended vaccine schedule.
Fun fact: When a breastfeeding mama follows a healthy diet, she not only passes along important nutrients—she boosts her own immune system, too!
So there you have it, the basics of immunity. Here’s to a healthy, happy future for your growing family!
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