They’re the source of your baby’s immunity!
Did you know that babies are born with NO immune system at all? If your child were to come in contact with even a weak germ or pathogen, they would fall ill because their bodies haven’t yet developed a resistance to disease. But that’s where the breastmilk antibodies come in!
The antibodies and immune cells in your breast milk are intended to pass your immunity to your child. Over your decades of life, you have been exposed to a wide range of germs, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens. You have suffered infections, diseases, injuries, and wounds. Your body has developed a certain resistance to these diseases.
So, instead of leaving your baby defenseless to disease, your body passes the antibodies you’ve developed over the course of your life on to your child. Your breast milk is the delivery system that supplies your baby with those important antibodies.
Breastmilk antibodies are vital for one simple reason: they start teaching your child’s immune system how to react to invaders. If you have been exposed to and developed resistance to a certain disease, the antibodies in your breast milk will teach your baby’s body to do the same. If you are resistant to certain types of pathogens, the antibodies passed on to your child will help their bodies to develop similar resistance.
Breast milk antibodies are your child’s first line of defense against infection. They won’t truly develop their own immune system for months yet, so the antibodies in your breast milk keep them from getting infections and contracting diseases while their body is building up its own defenses. Over time, they won’t need your breast milk antibodies. By the time they stop breast-feeding, they will have developed an immunity to disease and infection. For now, while they are nursing, they still need you to protect them.
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Here’s another important aspect of immune antibodies: they are vital for healthy digestion!
The majority of immune activity takes place in your digestive tract. After all, most of the germs and bacteria you’re exposed to come via the food and drink you ingest, and the things you put in your mouth. In addition to the antibodies in breast milk, you also pass on beneficial gut bacteria. These populate your child’s intestines and help their digestive tract learn to break down first breast milk, then liquids, then finally solid food. The beneficial bacteria will also act as your child’s immune system and protect them from disease and infection.
You, the mother, are basically the “immune factory” for your child. Your body produces most of the antibodies they need to survive. The antibodies are then passed through the breast milk, into your child’s digestive tract, and into their gut. The antibodies are absorbed into the bloodstream, where they help to fight off invading pathogens. The gut bacteria also work to suppress the spread of pathogens and germs.
You can see why the antibodies in breast milk are so important. Basically, they’re conditioning your child’s body to defend itself, and giving it the “troops” needed to fight off infection and disease. It’s why many experts recommend exclusively breastfeeding your child for no less than six months, then following up with a combination of other foods and breast milk for anywhere from 6 to 18 more months. That way, your child will be able to develop immunity to disease, and they’ll be protected from invading pathogens and germs. A bit more breastfeeding can make all the difference to your child’s health!