Thursday, February 13, 2014

Nature's Vaccine for the Newborn

So....if you didn't know already, we support breastfeeding here at Elegant Mommy.

There are many many reasons that we are so passionate about promoting the vast and beautiful reasons for an extended breastfeeding relationship with your little ones, but one of the most important is the health benefits for your sweet baby. Breastmilk, and particularly colostrum (the very first milk your baby gets from you) is SO important in establishing a healthy immune system for your baby.

In this excerpt from the "Womanly Art of Breastfeeding", La Leche League talks specifically about colostrum:

La Leche League's long time medical advisor, Dr Herbert Ratner, coined a phrase that aptly describes human milk's unique anti-infective qualities - "nature's vaccine for the newborn." Your milk contains unique substances that help to explain why breastfed babies are healthier. Thirty years of research on the immunology of breastfeeding has revealed a rich array of protective substances that fight bacteria and viruses and keep baby from getting seriously sick.

Your infant arrives in the world with a supply of protective proteins called antibodies that come to him from your blood via the placenta. The antibodies, which are also known as immunoglobulins, have been manufactured b your immune system in response to infections that you have been exposed to. These include some of the common contagious diseases of childhood and the everyday household germs found in your environment. While the immunity you have to these diseases is lifelong, the immunity which is passed on to your unborn baby in the form of immunoglobulins, known as IgG, gives him only temporary protection until his own immune system begins to develop.

The first milk from your breast, which is called colostrum, is low in fat and carbohydrates, and high in protein. It is exceptionally easy to digest, and it contains many living cells that defend the newborn against a number of potentially harmful agents. The immunoglobulins and other substances in colostrum take over from the placenta and continue on with the job of protecting the baby.

The concentration of immune factors in human milk is at its highest in colostrum, the first milk. This provides yet another reason for putting baby to your breast as soon as possible after birth.. No other fluid - glucose, water, tea, formula - comes close to being as good for your baby in the early days as colostrum.

As the days of breastfeeding go by, and colostrum gives way to mature milk, the concentration of antibodies in your milk decreases. Although fewer of these immunities are found in each milliliter of milk, the amount of milk your baby takes is increasing, so he is still getting plenty of immunological protection against many organisms, both viral and bacterial. Even past your baby's first birthday, there are significant amounts of protective factors in your milk. Their concentration actually increases during weaning.

If you are new to breastfeeding, will be soon, or are an experienced nursing mama, we want to make sure you know about our breastfeeding support opportunities at Educated Mommy.
  • Every Wednesday at 1 pm you can join Alicia Fonder, IBCLC, for Milk Monologues where you can get help with nursing, newborn care, and weigh your baby
  • The Second Thursday of every month (TODAY!!) at 6:30 pm, join our Breastfeeding Support Group where you can get helpful hints, tips, and support to help you all the way through your breastfeeding relationship
We'll see you soon - happy nursing!



La Leche League International (1997). The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Sixth Revised Edition. New York: Penguin Group.

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