Breast milk boosts immunity against infections: Top pediatrician

As we spend more and more time in pandemic circumstances, the state and importance of our health come to the fore, especially the health of our children. So parents are looking for ways to maximize the protection of their babies. According to a top Turkish pediatrician, there is a simple answer: breast milk.

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

Breast milk also has indirect ways of helping infants. Antibodies to the coronavirus have been found in the milk of vaccinated mothers and babies can be protected in this way.

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

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

“Antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, which are found in the mother who has had a COVID-19 infection, are also known to pass into breast milk and protect the baby from infection,” she said.

Breastfeeding is known to be safe as long as mothers strictly adhere to isolation practices, such as wearing masks, social distancing and hygiene, she said.

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

The World Health Organization and infant and child health groups suggest that babies should breastfeed for the first six months and that breastfeeding should be continued until they are at least 2 years old, she said.

Karabayır stressed that babies are born before their immune systems reach full maturity. “Physical and chemical conservators have not yet been developed postnatally. For this reason, they need immunological components in breast milk to combat microorganisms that can cause infections.”

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

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