Babies are born with particularly vulnerable immune systems, and everything from taking a dose of antibiotics to picking up germs from others at the hospital can have a potentially weakening effect on them. But it’s important for all parents to know that while an infant’s immune system is, indeed, susceptible at this point in life, it is also the best time to strengthen, nurture and develop it.
In fact, a recent study published in the Human Microbiome Journal proved for the first time ever that it’s possible to reduce bad bacteria, such as E. coli, C. diff, Staph and Strep, linked to autoimmune issues, by colonizing the infant gut with a specific good bacteria called B. infantis. In the study, B. infantis wiped out 93 percent of harmful bacteria. Unfortunately, most babies don’t acquire this good bacteria at birth anymore. While that is unfortunate, what is exciting for those of us who work with babies is that this new research shows we’re getting closer to better-protecting newborns immediately after birth as they grow.
This post was written by scientific advisor to Mamavation, Dr. Tanya Altmann, and it contains affiliate links.
Developing a Strong Immune System Starts Day One
The gut is made up of both good and bad bacteria and when more good bacteria (particularly B. infantis) are present in the gut, they crowd out the bad bacteria. Unfortunately, nine out of 10 babies today do not have B. infantis, which causes gut dysbiosis, which is an imbalance in the ratio of good and bad gut bacteria and distress as more bad bacteria are allowed to thrive. The presence of bad bacteria in baby’s gut is linked to a higher risk of health issues such as colic, eczema, allergies, diabetes, and obesity later in life.
This is extremely important. As a pediatrician, I’ve seen a massive spike in allergies and eczema among kids. It has become an epidemic among American children in the past decade, and these issues are now being linked to immune health and the gut. Here are the facts:
- There are at least two children with food allergies in almost every kindergarten classroom in the U.S. (FARE)
- 9.6 million children under the age of 18 have eczema and of this total, 3.2 million children suffer from moderate to severe cases (National Eczema Organization)
While we know the immune system is responsible for fighting off viruses and bacterial infections, we’re now starting to better understand how the composition of bacteria in a baby’s gut plays a significant role in how well the immune system can help keep a baby healthy.
What Mom Can Do to Boost Baby’s Immune Health
There are many things moms can do to boost their baby’s immune health from day one. Here are my recommendations.
- Breastfeed. The benefits of breastfeeding are extensive and include protection against illness and diseases. During the first six months, breast milk helps enhance a baby’s immune system, making it stronger and less susceptible to bad bacteria, infection and disease. Additionally, breast milk has special carbohydrates that feed the good bacteria in babies’ guts, helping fight off bad bacteria that are linked to colic, allergies, eczema and asthma.
- Give baby the right probiotic to restore good bacteria to the gut. The right bacteria help enable the proper development of the immune system, and I highly recommend that all parents give their babies a probiotic during infancy. Evivo (activated B. infantis) baby probiotic, for example, is clinically proven to restore the key good bacteria to the gut and reduce harmful bacteria. This probiotic helps establish a healthy immune system from day one and helps lay the foundation for lifelong good health.
- High fiber foods. Once you start feeding solids, it’s important to introduce toddlers to a wide variety of foods with high fiber, including fruits, veggies, beans and whole grains. Kids should eat plenty of high fiber foods for their entire lives!
- Sleep, sleep sleep! I can’t stress enough how important it is for a developing child to get enough sleep. Especially as kids get older, it’s important that they’re well rested and keeping their immune systems healthy.
There’s many factors that play into raising strong, healthy babies, but creating a strong immune system during the first six months is critical for baby’s short and long-term health.
Dr. Tanya Altmann is a leading pediatrician, Founder of Calabasas Pediatrics and best-selling author. Her expertise lies in baby nutrition and gut health, but she also speaks to everyday parenting issues. Altmann is the author of What to Feed Your Baby, Baby and Toddler Basics, and Mommy Calls, as well as editor-in-chief of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ parenting books, The Wonder Years and Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. Dr. Tanya has made numerous media appearances and contributions over the years, but she would say her most important role is being a mom to her amazing three boys.