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January 08, 2018

4 Ways To Support Your Infant's Immune System

 

1. BREASTMILK: During the last three months of pregnancy, your antibodies (particularly IgG) are passed to your fetus through the placenta.  Acquired by passive immunity, these cells help protect the fetus against bacteria and viruses. The amount and type of antibodies passed to your fetus depends on you.  If you were repeatedly exposed to an infection, your immune response would be greater, and more cells would be passed on to your developing fetus.

Passive immunity in newborn babies is only temporary and starts to decrease after the first few weeks or months.

Support your baby’s immune system actively by continuing to breastfeed or supply breastmilk to your child for as long as possible.  Breastmilk contains antibodies; colostrum is super rich in antibodies, critical for establishing good bacteria in the gut. Your maturing milk continues to boost your baby’s passive immunity with active immunity. Your breastmilk is your baby’s protection from a cold, virus or flu that you might have right now.  Don’t stop the breast milk.

2. HAND WASHING: Everyone washes his/her hands when entering the house.  Everyone washes his/her hands before touching the baby.  Simple.  Now even simpler... based on a 2017 study from Rutgers University that found cool water to be as effective as hot for removing germs in as little as 10 seconds!  The World Health Organization’s 2009 information recommends 40-60 seconds. Need pictures? http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/Hand_Hygiene_Why_How_and_When_Brochure.pdf

We all know that washing our hands can keep us from spreading germs and getting those around us ill.  Support your baby’s immune system by insisting upon hand washing for all.

3. AVOID CROWDS: This means anywhere that more than 4 or 5 people are gathered in a small, indoor space. In your home, limit your justborn’s exposure to the closest family and friends. Ask anyone who suspects they might be ill, or might be getting ill, to visit at a later date.  In the first 3 months avoid airborne germs by keeping your baby out of supermarkets, shopping malls, trains, buses and airplanes.  As your baby’s immune system becomes stronger, your daily walks with your baby, out in the fresh air and sunshine, can expand to more public places. Support your baby’s immune system by limiting exposure to bacteria and viruses that thrive where crowds thrive.

4. TRAVEL SMART...When you travel with your infant, under 2-3 months of age, travel in your own or a rented car.  Fewer exposures to other’s germs, especially before immunizations have begun, reduce the risk of having a sick baby while on vacation or during a visit to a distant relative.  Infants are creatures of habit and you’d be wise to maintain your baby’s regular time schedules regardless of the time on the clock. Feed your baby when she is hungry and allow her to sleep when she is tired...and the same goes for you. Rhythms are comforting; rhythms keep life and breastmilk flowing. Don’t mess with them. Support your baby’s immune system by maintaining her home patterns while away from home.

 

Paula Zindler
RN IBCLC



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