Your baby is very vulnerable to a wide array of illnesses because his immune system is not matured yet. Research has shown that immediately after birth, mothers pass on ‘disease-fighting’ antibodies to their babies, through the placenta. It helps protect new-born babies from harmful germs in the environment.
As your baby grows, he builds immunity by encountering infections. It is the reason your baby may become frequently sick (six to eight times a year averagely). So how do you build and protect your baby’s fragile immune system?
Breastfeeding your baby will make him less susceptible to various infections. Breast milk is rich in sugar, essential mineral, protein, antibodies and cells (including lactoferrin, oligosaccharides, white blood cells, immunoglobulins and probiotics) that are highly efficient in protecting your baby against diseases. Breastfeeding also reduces the likelihood of your baby having childhood leukaemia, diarrhoea, eczema and obesity.
Breastfeeding is one of the keys to a robust immune system in babies. Mothers transfer pathogen-targeted antibodies to babies through breastfeeding. Hence, the immune system of breastfed babies can combat germs swiftly and more efficiently.
Your baby encounters so many (potentially harmful) germs daily in his surrounding. Germs can be found in he eats, the air he takes in, and whatever he touches or inserts into his mouth. While it is true that exclusive breastfeeding will provide strong support to your baby’s immune system, it should be complemented with vaccination.
Timely vaccination will protect your baby from deadly diseases including pneumococcal disease, measles, rubella, whooping cough and diphtheria. It will help your baby’s immune system fight off these severe infections.
Vaccines are usually safe because they contain a ‘weakened’ virus or bacteria which is used to induce an immune response in your baby. This immune response is sufficient enough to trigger antibodies production, making your baby’s immune system strong enough to prevent and fight off diseases.
Quality sleep time
Quality sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. If your baby has enough sleep, he will be less cranky, more at ease and happier. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children under one year should get twelve to sixteen hours of sleep daily. During sleep, your baby’s immune system produces a proteinous cell known as cytokines.
Poor sleep will negatively affect your baby’s mental and physical development. It will also limit the production of serotonin and impairs your baby’s fibre and vitamin digestion. So, ensure your baby gets all the naps and bed rest he deserves.
A nutritious diet is essential as you introduce your baby to solid food after six months of exclusive breastfeeding. A balanced and healthy diet can provide your baby’s immune system with all the vital support. Foods rich in zinc, iron and vitamin C are known to boost the immune system of children.
Some nutritious foods that can offer tremendous support to your baby’s immune system include:
· Brown rice – It contains a lot of vitamins (like vitamin B) and minerals (like selenium, phosphorous and magnesium) that can better your baby’s immune system.
· Sweet potatoes – A rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C and beta-carotene. It boosts the immune system and prevents scurvy and anaemia.
· Avocado – It is very nourishing and rich in antioxidants, which immensely benefit your baby’s immune system. Avocado contains Vitamin E and Vitamin B, which not only keep illnesses at bay but also protect critical bodily organs.
· Plain yoghurts – It contains ‘probiotics’. Probiotics are a powerful immune-booster and keep the digestive system healthy. Yoghurts are also rich in vitamins and protein.
Keep your baby away from thirdhand smoke.
While secondhand smoke is exhaled directly from a smoker, third-hand smoke is the ‘leftover’ chemicals (like ammonia and carbon monoxide) that cling to surfaces and coverings after cigarette smoking has been carried out in a particular place. Babies are very vulnerable to third-hand smokes because they frequently crawl on the floor and have the habit of putting their hands into their mouths.
Exposure to thirdhand smoke can cause severe ailments to your baby. Respiratory illnesses such as asthma, pneumonia, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) are some of the risks that accompany babies that inhale smokes, whether secondhand or thirdhand. The best thing to do if you are a tobacco-dependent parent is to quit and insist on a smoke-free home or environment. It will contribute to the overall health of your baby.