We are learning more about immunity each day, and it's important to remember that newborns can be vulnerable as their immune system isn't as strong. They do, however, have some protection, thanks to the special shared immunity from their mums that is passed on during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.
Your baby's immune system is built up during the third trimester by the transfer of your antibodies through the placenta. This is what gives your newborn some protection when they are born. The type and amount of antibodies passed to each baby depends on the mother's level of immunity. Premature babies haven't had as much time to build those antibodies as full-term babies, which is why they can be more fragile in the beginning.
Antibodies are a protective protein that are produced by the immune system to help fight foreign substances in the body. During the last three months of pregnancy you pass antibodies to your baby through the placenta. So you give your bub some protection for when they are born. The type and amount of antibodies passed to the baby depends on your own level of immunity. During vaginal delivery, bacteria from the vagina is passed on to your baby which helps to build up their gut bacteria, which ultimately contributes to immunity.
Colostrum is the nutrient-rich fluid produced before your breast milk comes in. It is loaded with immune, growth and tissue repair factors. It gives them a big boost of immune support for their first days in the world. Around two thirds of the cells in colostrum are white blood cells that help guard against infections. These white blood cells also produce antibodies that can neutralise bacteria or viruses and help build your baby's immune system and gut flora.
Your breastmilk contains many elements that support your baby’s immune system such as proteins, fats, sugars and antibodies and probiotics. When a mother comes into contact with germs, she develops antibodies to help her fight off the infection. These are passed to the baby in breast milk. As mothers and babies are usually exposed to similar germs, this helps build the baby's protection as well.
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