Breastfeeding: A Breastfed Baby is a Healthier Baby

June 18, 2008

Breastfeeding and Colostrum: Babies First Immunization

Even before your baby is born, your breasts produce a special kind of milk called colostrum.  These drops of orangish colored liquid are so rich in immune factors that the World Health Organization calls it "baby's first immunization."  Colostrum prepares your baby for his first weeks out of the womb when he would otherwise be vulnerable to infection.  At birth, babies' immature guts are sterile.  Breastmilk, beginning with colostrum, creates the right environment in the baby's gut for healthy immune function.  It populates the baby's gut with good bacteria, some which actively fight pathogens (micro-organisms that cause disease) and help in the development of the baby's own defenses.  It also seals the gut, keeping harmful substances from sticking to it and penetrating it.  Research shows that even one small amount of food or drink other than human milk will change the baby's gut flora and make it more vulnerable to pathogens.  It takes at least two weeks of exclusive breastfeeding to return to normal.

Breastfeeding: Custom Made Defense System

Your milk adapts to the germs in your environment.  When you are exposed to a new germ, your body produces specific antibodies to fight off the infection it could cause.  These new antibodies are released into your milk to protect your baby as well.  This is one of the reasons it is important to nurse while you are ill.  Your baby will be exposed to your germs no matter what.  By nursing him, you give him custom made protection against your illness. He may still get sick but it will be much milder than if he was not breastfeeding.  If your baby spends time away from you, he will pick up some new germs of his own. He will pass them on to your immune system while he nurses.  Your immune system will then produce the appropriate antibodies and add them to your milk to protect him.

Breastfeeding: A Life Time of Benefits

Since breastmilk aids in the development of the baby's own immune system, the health benefits of breastfeeding last a life time.  A breastfed baby is not only less prone to illness, such as ear infections, respiratory disease, digestive illness, SIDs and others, he is less likely to contact other diseases throughout his life.  These include allergies, asthma, diabetes, celiac disease, Chrons disease and many cancers.

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