Breast milk boosts immunity against infections: Top pediatrician

As we spend more and more time living in pandemic conditions the state and importance of our health come ever to the forefront and the health of our children most of all. So, parents are looking at ways on how they can maximize the protection of their babies. According to a top Turkish pediatrician, there is a simple answer: breast milk.

Breast milk, not only provides nutrition to infants but it strengthens the immune system and protects them from infections. “Studies show that infants who are breastfed for a year are 50% less likely to catch an infection than other babies,” said Nalan Karabayır, who teaches pediatric health and diseases at Medipol Mega University Hospital in Istanbul.

Breast milk has indirect ways of helping infants as well. Antibodies for the coronavirus were found in the milk of mothers who were vaccinated, and babies can be protected in this way.

Karabayır said if the mother is inoculated against the coronavirus, it will protect her and her baby from infection.

Touching on the effects of COVID-19 on mothers and infants, and referring to studies, Karabayir noted that the pandemic affects children of all ages but with our current knowledge, it is accepted that it is not transmitted through breast milk.

“It is known that antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, which occur in the mother who had a COVID-19 infection, also pass into breast milk and protect the baby from infection,” she said.

It is known that breastfeeding is safe as long as mothers strictly follow isolation practices such as wearing masks, social distancing and hygiene, she said.

Underlining that living cells of the mother’s immune system are present in breast milk, Karabayır explained, “Thanks to breast milk, the baby receives 1.5 million live cells in every 1 milliliter (0.03 ounce) of milk.”

The World Health Organization and groups dealing with infant and children’s health suggest that babies should breastfeed for the first six months and breastfeeding should continue until at least they reach 2 years old, she said.

Karabayır emphasized that babies are born before their immune systems are fully mature. “Physical and chemical conservators are not yet developed postnatally. For this reason, they need immunological components in breast milk to combat microorganisms that may cause infection.”

“In addition to the nutritional properties of breast milk, the live cells, probiotics, cytokines, immunoglobulins and oligosaccharides it contains, provide protection of the baby from infections. For these reasons, breast milk is unique,” she added.

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