Breast Milk Protects Newborn Babies
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Did you know that Breastfeeding provides passive and likely long-lasting active immunity?
Human milk protects against infections in the breastfed offspring mainly via the secretory IgA antibodies, but also most likely via several other factors like the bactericidal lactoferrin. It is striking that the defense factors of human milk function without causing inflammation, some components are even directly anti-inflammatory.
Protection against infections has been well evidenced during lactation against, e.g., acute and prolonged diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, otitis media, urinary tract infection, neonatal septicemia, and necrotizing enterocolitis.
There is also interesting evidence for an enhanced protection remaining for years after lactation against diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, otitis media, Haemophilus influenzae type b infections, and wheezing illness. In several instances, the protection seems to improve with the duration of breastfeeding.
Some, but not all studies have shown better vaccine responses among breastfed than non-breastfed infants. A few factors in milk like anti-antibodies (anti-idiotypic antibodies) and T and B lymphocytes have in some experimental models been able to transfer priming of the breastfed offspring. This together with the transfer of numerous cytokines and growth factors via milk may add to an active stimulation of the infant's immune system.
Consequently, the infant might respond better to both infections and vaccines. Such an enhanced function could also explain why breastfeeding may protect against immunologic diseases like coeliac disease and possibly allergy. Suggestions for protection against autoimmune diseases and tumors have also been published.
Breastfeeding may, in addition to the well-known passive protection against infections during lactation, have a unique capacity to stimulate the immune system of the offspring possibly with several long-term positive effects.
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*THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. THESE PRODUCTS ARE NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, CURE, OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE.