Infant Immunity & Breastfeeding
Newborn Immunity Through Breast Milk
What is immunity?
The protection that breastmilk
provides, that is designed for a baby’s immune system. Many child
immunity disorders can be avoided; you can increase immunity of your
baby, just by breastfeeding!
Active and Passive Infant Immunity
Active immunity is a response of the baby’s own immune system.
Passive immunity, is immunity received via active disease-fighting properties of breastmilk. The mother’s body creates the disease fighting cells and antibodies and then sends them to her baby, via feeding.
- A baby who breastfeeds exclusively for the first 6 months and who continues to breastfeed, has an increased benefit from this immunity.
When the breast milk is low, the concentration of immune factors are higher, such as the first few months after birth and during weaning.
Immune System Components of Breast Milk
Breast milk contains:
- White blood cells and immunity: Phagocytes attack pathogens by “eating" them. Lymphcytes attack the walls of viruses.
Different antibodies that attack specific pathogens: These are called Immunoglobulins. These antibodies also help to protect the digestive tract; also protecting against diarrhea.
- Antibodies that attack more than one pathogen “broad spectrum protection": One of these is Lactoferrin, which is a protein that combats E coli and Candida (yeast infection). Another one is bifidus, which is the good bacteria in the gut preventing disease. Another is Oligosaccharides, this is a carbohydrate that keeps pathogens from burrowing into the digestive tract.
- Anti-inflammatories: Antioxidants, enzymes such as catalase, hormonmes such as cortisol, IgA and prostagladins.
- Immunostimulants: These help the baby’s immune system develop itself. It also helps clear out bacteria and waste products from the blood system.
When you realize that breast milk is a living thing, it becomes clear how inferior formula actually is, and how important it is for every baby to receive this immunity. Read our article on the importance of breastfeeding.
Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)
Child birth international courses on the physiology of lactation.
Other pages on breastfeeding problems in connection with this page
- Advantages of extended breastfeeding
- The importance of colostrum
- Gut protection via breast milk
- The benefits of breastfeeding
- Skin to skin contact and Kangaroo care
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