Breastfeeding and immunity
Breast Milk is the primary source of nutrition for newborns before they are able to eat and digest other foods; older infants and toddlers may continue to be breastfed, either exclusively or in combination with other foods from around six months of age when solid foods may be introduced.
The baby nursing from its own mother is the most common way of obtaining breast milk, but the milk can be pumped and then fed by baby bottle, cup and/or spoon. Breastfeeding offers health benefits to mother and child even after infancy.
It is well known that breastfed babies are less likely to get infections than are formula-fed babies. Breast milk contains many factors that help to support a baby’s immune system. A mother passes on lots of proteins, fats, sugars and cells that work against infections when she breastfeeds her baby (eg antibodies, white blood cells, oligosaccharides, probotics and prebiotics).
When a mother comes into contact with germs in her environment, she makes antibodies to fight those germs. These antibodies pass into the breast milk and therefore into the baby. Since a mother and her baby are generally in contact with the same germs, this helps to protect her baby from the illnesses they are both exposed to. The main type of antibody in breast milk is IgA. IgA antibodies protect the internal surfaces of the body, such as the mouth, stomach, intestines and lungs. They are not digested by the baby, they just coat the gut and block the entry of infections that could otherwise cause illness.
In addition, there are a number of other factors in breast milk that help a breastfed baby develop a more efficient immune system. For example, breastfed babies tend to have a larger thymus gland than those fed infant formula. The thymus gland makes a type of white blood cell that helps protect against infections.
If you develop a cold while breastfeeding, for example, you are likely to pass the cold germs on to your baby but the antibodies your body produces to fight that cold also will be passed on through your milk. These antibodies will help your infant conquer the cold germs quickly and effectively and possibly avoid developing the cold altogether.
This defense against illnesses significantly decreases the chances that your breastfeeding baby will suffer from ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, or certain types of spinal meningitis. Transfer of the human milk antibodies and other immunologic substances may also explain why children who breastfeed for more than six months are less likely to develop childhood acute leukemia and lymphoma than those who receive formula.
At around four to six months of age, the internal iron supplies of the infant, held in the hepatic cells of the liver, are exhausted, hence this is the time that complementary feeding is introduced.
Exclusive breastfeeding till six months and breastfeeding along with administration of other nutrition till two years is highly recommended.
Hence I will conclude with a statement that
Breast milk – it is one miracle drink for your kids.