vaccines Tag

flu season and breast milk

Can breast milk protect babies during flu season?

Breast milk offers a number of advantages over cow’s milk and formula because it is the “biologic norm” for infant nutrition. It contains natural human hormones and nutrients that help newborns thrive as well as “distinct bioactive molecules that protect against infection and inflammation and contribute to immune maturation, organ development, and healthy microbial colonization,” according to a study on the composition of human milk.

Unlike cow’s milk or formula, breast milk is dynamic, changing based on the needs of the infant as well as the environment. In other words, yes, breast milk can protect babies during flu season, and much better than the alternatives.

Breast milk strengthens the immune system and, specifically, respiratory health

A pound of prevention is worth an ounce of cure, and breast milk is the number one preventative therapy for newborn health. Aside from vitamins and other health-boosting nutrients, human milk contains cells such as macrophages, T cells, stem cells, and lymphocytes. These stimulate the development of a newborn’s immune system, and the effects last for years or, in some cases, for the child’s entire lifetime.

Breast milk passes immune information between mother and child

Because infants’ immune systems are immature when they’re born, they need help from mom’s immune system. Breast milk does more than transfer immunity, though. It actually teaches baby’s immune system what to be on the lookout for. Cytokines and chemokines passed from mother to infant during feeding inform the infant’s immune system of potential threats. This communication improves immune defense against infection and inflammation.

Protection from the flu can be improved by diet, pumping, and vaccination

While breast milk alone will boost your baby’s immune system, you can amplify the flu protection you provide your newborn in several ways.

You don’t have to breastfeed to provide the benefits of breast milk

Even if breastfeeding hasn’t worked out for you, you can provide all of the benefits of nursing through pumping. A comfortable breast pump is critical to a successful pumping session. If you’re not sure which breast pump is right for you, get in touch with your friends at Milk N Mamas Baby. We can help you choose a pump that maximizes your comfort and your breastmilk production to ensure baby is protected during flu season.

How does breast milk protect babies from COVID?

We already knew breast milk was an immune booster

We were telling you the health benefits of breast milk way back in 2019. It contains all the essential nutrients your baby needs to develop. It’s also rich in immune cells and reduces the risk of asthma and allergies, among other childhood and lifelong illnesses. In fact, one study we cited in that earlier post described breast milk as “required for optimal infant growth and development.”

You can’t get much better press than that. Or can you?

The news about breast milk’s health benefits keeps getting better

A University of Birmingham study released in 2021 found that immune cells called regulatory T cells are nearly twice as abundant in breastfed babies as in formula fed babies. In addition, the study found that bacteria that support T cells are more abundant in the guts of breastfed babies. Optimally-functioning T cells are critical today as they play a key role in immunity to foreign substances, includng COVID-19.

T cells known as “killer T cells” can target and destroy virus-infected cells. Scientists hope that they may help provide some immunity to COVID-19, according to a recent Nature article. While T cells can’t prevent infection, they can reduce the severity of it as well as reducing transmission.

But wait – there’s more! Breast milk also passes on COVID-19 vaccine benefits

Early studies of COVID-19 vaccines excluded pregnant and breastfeeding women, which led many moms to wonder if they should risk getting vaccinated. However, new data is in from a study that explored the use of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in both groups of women. The news is good!

The study showed that vaccine-induced antibody levels were much higher than levels induced by natural infection with COVID-19 during pregnancy. Further, the researchers found that those same antibodies were transferred to babies from mothers via umbilical cord blood and breast milk.

“We now have clear evidence the COVID vaccines can induce immunity that will protect infants,” said researcher Galit Alter in an interview with U.S. News and World Report. “We hope this study will catalyze vaccine developers to recognize the importance of studying pregnant and lactating individuals and include them in trials. The potential for rational vaccine design to drive improved outcomes for mothers and infants is limitless, but developers must realize that pregnancy is a distinct immunological state, where two lives can be saved simultaneously with a powerful vaccine.”

Breast milk for the win – again

Naturally, we’re not surprised. We’ve known breast milk is a little bit scientific wonder and a little bit mother’s magic for a while. We just wanted you to know that the love you pass on to your little one when you’re nursing is a pretty big deal in the fight against COVID-19 and other preventable illnesses.