Breastfeeding is widely known to provide numerous health benefits for both babies and mothers. One of the most significant benefits is that breastfed babies have a stronger immune system and are less likely to get infections than formula-fed babies.
How Breastmilk Supports Your Baby's Immune System
Breastmilk contains a variety of factors that help support and develop your baby's immune system. These include:
- When a mother comes into contact with germs, she produces antibodies to fight them. These antibodies pass into breastmilk and are passed on to the baby, providing passive immunity against the same germs.
- Breastmilk contains a high level of a specific type of antibody called IgA, which coats the baby's gut and protects against infections that could cause illness.
White Blood Cells
- Breastmilk contains white blood cells that help fight infections.
Lactoferrin and Lysozyme
- Breastmilk contains proteins such as lactoferrin and lysozyme, which have antimicrobial properties and help protect against infections.
Oligosaccharides, Probiotics, and Prebiotics
- Breastmilk contains oligosaccharides, probiotics, and prebiotics, which promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the baby's gut and help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
The Thymus Gland: Another Benefit of Breastfeeding
Breastfed babies develop a larger thymus gland than formula-fed babies. The thymus gland makes a type of white blood cell that helps protect against infections.
Breastfeeding and Vaccinations
While breastfeeding provides some immunity to babies, it is not a substitute for immunization. Both mothers and babies should receive vaccinations to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases. Please see your medical practitioner for your local vaccination schedule.
Vaccinations for Mothers
- Mothers who are breastfeeding can safely receive vaccinations. If unsure about a specific vaccine, it is best to consult with a healthcare provider.
Vaccinations for Babies
- Breastfed and formula-fed babies have the same vaccination recommendations. Parents should seek appropriate guidance on immunization from their medical advisers.
Breastfeeding During Vaccinations
Breastfeeding is an effective way to distract babies from pain. Mothers can breastfeed their babies during vaccinations to help reduce their perception of pain. You can plan your vaccination appointment around your next feed so that your baby can feel warmth, connection and a full belly to calm them down during/ after their vaccination.
Breastfeeding is an important way to support and develop a baby's immune system. While it provides some immunity to babies, it is not a substitute for immunization. Mothers should consult with healthcare providers to ensure that they and their babies receive all necessary vaccinations to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases.