100% Human Milk Diet: Your Baby’s Best BodyguardDr. Anita Srinivasa
MBBS, MD, DM – Neonatology
Nothing compares to the emotions a mother experiences when she holds her baby for the first time. Your baby looks like a porcelain doll – so beautiful and so delicate. As a mother, all you want to do is protect this tiny baby and keep him safe.The good news is that you do not have to do this alone. Your baby’s immunity starts developing in the last trimester. Though this immunity is still not strong enough to fight against all infections, it will continue to develop after the baby is born.
How does the baby’s immune system develop?
The immune system is a network of cells that helps the body fight against infections. When a foreign substance such as a bacteria or virus enters the body, white blood cells produce antibodies that fight foreign substances.
The baby’s immune system starts developing in the third trimester of pregnancy. During these three months, antibodies from the mother are passed down to the baby through the placenta. The amount and type of antibodies passed down from mother to baby depend on the mother’s immunity.
During childbirth, bacteria from the vagina passes on to the baby to further strengthen the baby’s immunity. After being born, the best way to boost your baby’s immunity is to breastfeed him or her.
Breastfeeding and Immunity
Giving your baby a 100% human milk diet is the best way to strengthen the baby’s immunity. The first milk a mother produces is known as colostrum. This nutrient-dense baby food is also very rich in white blood cells. Up to two-thirds of colostrum is made up of white blood cells. These white blood cells produce antibodies that fight bacteria and viruses and are particularly good at reducing gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea and tummy upsets.
Along with a host of nutrients, breast milk also contains immune cells and proteins. When the baby ingests this breastmilk, the cells keep microbes from penetrating through the baby’s body tissue. Some cells also bind themselves to the baby’s gastrointestinal tract and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.
Certain immune cells present in human milk that are known as phagocytes attack microbes directly to keep the baby safe. Human breast milk contains 5 basic forms of immunoglobulins- IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD and IgE. Of these IgA is the most abundantly available. Infants start producing this antibody only after several weeks or months after birth. Thus, babies who are not given a human milk diet cannot get these antibodies.
Another important antibody present in colostrum is slgA. This antibody is concentrated in the mucus lining of the respiratory and gut system. It protects the baby from all illnesses that the mother has gone through. Breastfeeding your baby for the first 4 months also protects the baby from allergies that may run in the family. As compared to formula-fed babies, breastfed babies also have a lower risk of life-threatening conditions like lymphoma and acute leukemia.
Giving Your Baby a 100% Human Milk Diet
The baby’s immune system should mature by the time the baby is about 2 or 3 months old. Until then your baby’s immune system is dependent on breastmilk. But, in some cases, a mother may be unable to produce enough breastmilk for her baby. The good news is that formula is not the only option available in such cases. You can still give your baby a human milk diet by giving your little one donor milk.
Donor milk refers to excess breastmilk that has been donated by other lactating mothers. This milk is 100% natural and rich in all the nutrients needed by your baby. Human donor milk is screened, tested and pasteurized to keep it safe. This milk is much better for your baby as compared to cow’s milk or formula-based products.
For premature babies, you may also want to consider human milk derived fortifier as part of 100% human milk diet. This fortifier is made exclusively from donor milk with additional nutrients that it may lack. It gives the baby the protein needed along with immunoglobins and protection against complications related to premature birth.
To conclude, if you want your baby to have a strong immunity, do not give your baby formula-based foods. Breastfeed your baby for the first 6 months or give your little one donor milk.