Breastfeeding And Your Baby’s Immune System: How To Build It Up

Breastfeeding your baby is one of the best things you can do to build up his immune system

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What is the immune system?

The immune system is a network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection.

If bacteria, a virus or other foreign substance enters the body, white blood cells identify it and produce antibodies and other responses to the infection. They also ‘remember’ the attack so they can fight it more easily next time.(Paid link)

A baby’s immune system is immature when they are born. It develops throughout life as they are exposed to different germs that can cause disease.

The immune system in babies: How Does It Work?

Antibodies are passed from mother to baby through the placenta during the third trimester (last 3 months of pregnancy). This gives the baby some protection when they are born. The type and amount of antibodies passed to the baby depends on the mother’s own level of immunity.

During birth, bacteria from the mother’s vagina is passed on to the baby. This helps to build the colony of bacteria in the gut that contributes to their immunity.

After birth, more antibodies are passed on to the baby in colostrum and in breast milk. But babies’ immune systems are still not as strong as adults’. Premature babies are at greater risk of infection because their immune systems are even more immature and they haven’t had as many antibodies passed to them from their mothers.

Babies produce their own antibodies every time they are exposed to a virus or germ, but it takes time for this immunity to fully develop.

The passive immunity passed on from the mother at birth also doesn’t last long and will start to decrease in the first few weeks and months after birth.

How to Boost Your Baby’s Immune System

Each time your baby gets sick, they are developing new antibodies that will protect them in the future. In the meantime, there are some important things you can do to protect your baby. Here is a handy list to keep in mind:


Breastfed babies have fewer infections and get better more quickly than formula-fed babies. However, breastfeeding cannot protect your baby from serious, life-threatening infections like polio, diphtheria or measles. Also, for mothers who are unable to breastfeed or who choose not to, infant formula is a healthy alternative.

What About Vaccination?

Vaccinating children is the safest and most effective way to protect them against serious disease.

Vaccination causes an immune response in the same way that a virus or bacteria would. It means that if your child comes into contact with the real disease in future, their immune system will recognise the germ and respond fast enough to fight off the disease or prevent serious complications.

Pregnant women are vaccinated for whooping cough in their third trimester so they will pass on immunity to their babies.

Your baby will have their first vaccinations at birth, then some more at 6 weeks, 4 months and 6 months and for the first few years of life.

Diet and supplements

Taking antibiotics can kill some of the gut bacteria that are important for immunity. Probiotics are often suggested as a way of boosting babies’ immunity after they have had antibiotics. Probiotics are safe to use in late pregnancy and after the baby is born. However, the evidence is mixed about if they have benefits for children or adults. Talk to your doctor before you consider giving probiotics to your baby.

In most cases, breast milk and formula provide all the vitamins and minerals your baby needs. Additional vitamin supplements are not recommended for babies.

Once your baby starts on solids, a variety of fresh foods including different types of pureed vegetables and fruits should be enough to keep the immune system healthy. Try to keep breastfeeding while you’re introducing solid food.

How breastfeeding boosts your immune system while breastfeeding

Mamas did you know breastfeeding your baby has tremendous benefits for you and your baby? Many times we focus only on the good it does for the baby, but moms -to -be it has tremendous benefits for you too. Let me show you how:

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, breast cancer, and ovarian and uterine cancer.  Breastfeeding also increases the quantity of oxytocin in women’s bodies, ( Baby Center), making them feel more relaxed and less anxious.

Breastfeeding, according to one study, can reduce the risk of postpartum depression in 50%, which sounds fantastic. When you consider that depression can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to sickness, it’s easy to see how breastfeeding and a mother’s healthy immune system are linked.

Is it, however, effective in protecting you from a cold or the flu by boosting your immune system? Although there is no definitive evidence that breastfeeding impacts your immune system, the health benefits to you are numerous and might potentially keep you healthy.

Bottom Line

Breastfeeding mothers need the support of everyone to sustain breastfeeding. Many persons can easily give up if they do not get the support they need. To help keep babies healthy, communities can take steps to support mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies. This can include offering paid leave and giving employees places and time to pump breast milk.

If you’re breastfeeding your baby or have any questions, never hesitate to talk with your pediatrician. If you can’t breastfeed, or for personal reasons choose not to, talk to your pediatrician about the many other ways to support your baby’s health. Remember, mama your choice to breastfeed is one of the best things you can do to build not only your baby but also your immune system.



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Published by Marilyn Smith

Hello. My name is Marilyn Smith. I am a Health Specialist with specialized skills in Clinical Practical Nursing, and Midwife of thirty six years. I am also a certified Lactation and Grief Specialist. I am well qualified to assist in meeting your breastfeeding needs. Breastfeeding is indeed the best for your baby. Congratulations on making such a wonderful decision. Consider this your home as we learn about the joys and pains of pregnancy & breastfeeding

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