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How to Boost A Baby’s Immune System with Probiotics in Breast Milk
When it comes to disease prevention, there is nothing more important than your own immune system and making sure it is as healthy as possible. Immune cells and bacteria in our mother’s womb are the first living organisms we encounter. That’s why probiotics in breast milk help boost a newborn’s immune response to its new environment.
Gut bacteria and immunity
The immune system is your body’s frontline defense against pathogens, bacteria, diseases, and more. Our T-cells and B-cells ensure we’re not sick all the time, or worse–-combating gastrointestinal distress and chronic illness.
When you get infected, your body immediately releases an immune response and goes to fight off the attacker. Once the harmful intestinal flora, inflammation, or virus is suppressed, your body generates antibodies.
Antibodies are specifically designed to fight off the attacker if it ever comes again. This biological process is the backbone behind the theory of why vaccines have helped reduce the instances of measles, mumps, and Polio over the past several decades 1.
Probiotics in breast milk benefits for baby
All of the benefits that can be seen transferring from mom to the child comes from a little-known substance known as Colostrum 2. Colostrum is a fluid that comes out with breast milk for a few days after the baby is born. This promotes the growth and well-being of the infant.
This composition change is because Colostrum has many hormones, growth factors, and antioxidants, which can increase muscle growth and ligament repair over time.
Experiments on Colostrum are often done using cow’s milk. This choice is because these animals have a far higher concentration of Colostrum than human breast milk does. These studies have found a ton of significant effects on mice as well as on humans who used it.
For instance, studies have shown that athletes who used Colostrum have higher lean muscle mass and better performance after a period of 8 weeks 4.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), probiotics in breast milk are important for newborns developing into children without health issues.
In a study on the long-term effects of breastfeeding, WHO stated,
“Breastfeeding was associated with a lower risk of type-2 diabetes.”
Without breastfeeding, the child is far more prone to diseases and infections early on in life and might be more susceptible to obesity 5. With that being said, it’s always a woman’s decision.
There are always ways to raise a healthy child without breastfeeding. For many, breastfeeding is a natural and more efficient option. Here are some reasons why it works so well for many.
There have been plenty of studies to date that show a positive effect of Colostrum on a wide variety of factors. For instance, a mouse study done gave one group of mice Colostrum and then infected them with influenza. The mice that had Colostrum were better able to handle influenza, in comparison to the control group 6.
It is believed that Colostrum binds to pathogens, viruses, and allergens and neutralizes them. This helps keep the baby from suffering from sickness while the body is still adjusting to the outside world.
Due to this, PRPs can reduce inflammation. This puts less pressure on the immune system, allowing these cells to function better against dangers.
One of the more critical benefits of Colostrum would be the fact that it seems to be extremely useful when it comes to gut health. Since these fluids allow the cells to bind tightly together, Colostrum may be able to prevent things such as inflammation or gastrointestinal distress.
Besides probiotics in breast milk, there is also prebiotics. Prebiotics are food for beneficial bacteria in the gut. Gut bacteria will consume carbohydrates in foods. That lends the gut bacteria to thrive.
Breast milk prebiotics is also known as human milk oligosaccharides. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll call human oligosaccharides “sugars.”
These sugars in breast milk help feed the intestinal flora in the infant’s stomach. Sugars in breast milk can’t be broken down by the infant’s digestive system, so it serves as energy for beneficial bacteria to grow and flourish.
Improves infant gut microbiome
The milk itself also contains a ton of probiotics. So basically, it is a microbiome of its own. This makes a lot of sense if you consider what milk is for. It is explicitly designed to help a young baby grow quickly and effectively. Milk provides all of the nutrients, growth factors, and probiotics that a baby needs to thrive.
Since the mother and the baby spend so much time close to each other, the infant’s immune system can learn to gradually cope with a lot of the same pathogens and bacteria that the mother is already used to.
Boosts metabolismMetabolism is also affected by the use of Colostrum. For instance, studies have been done on mice to see what this can do with people who had insulin resistance. At the end of the study, the mice that got the treatment had fewer factors that could lead to liver damage and insulin resistance 8.
If these are the benefits that are seen in full-grown adults, just imagine what it must be like for infants who consume it from their mothers. These benefits are not only helpful for growing newborns but actually vital for them as well.
Antibiotics and breastfeeding
Preterm infants of a cesarean section must get plenty of breast milk or fortified infant formula. A formula-fed infant needs vitamins and minerals that are similar to those they had in their mother’s gut to help transition into this new world.
Inevitably, antibiotics will permeate into breast milk. Antibiotics are deemed safe by the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 10.
Probiotic supplements for mothers
Antibiotics can wipe out beneficial bacteria in a mother’s gut. In turn, they can become more susceptible to pathogenic overgrowth. These microbes can compromise the baby, too.
One study looked at probiotic intervention on new mothers and the infant gut microbiota. They looked at children who were born from a caesarian section and those with natural birth. Some of the mothers were given a placebo.
Other mothers had a probiotic supplement containing:
- Bifidobacterium breve Bb99 (Bp99 2 × 108 CFU)
- Propionibacterium freundenreichii subsp. shermaniiJS (2 × 109 CFU)
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus Lc705 (5 × 109 CFU)
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus G (5 × 109 CFU)
“In the placebo group, both birth mode and antibiotic use were significantly associated with altered microbiota composition and function, particularly reduced Bifidobacterium abundance. In the probiotic group, the effects of antibiotics and birth mode were either completely eliminated or reduced 11.”
With the right probiotic strain, you might be able to help your own gut microbiome. In turn, you will pass these benefits along to the breastfed infant!It might help your physician to make an educated decision by knowing which bacteria are present in the maternal gut. You can receive this information with Ombre.
If you want to improve your gut bacteria without a probiotic supplement, eat fermented foods. These are teeming with probiotic bacteria that nourish your gut and enrich your breast milk.
Some of the best-fermented foods for breastfeeding moms include:
There are conflicting reports about kombucha because it has low alcohol levels. So, please talk to your physician if you’re considering adding this fermented tea to your postpartum wellness routine.
Alternatives to breastfeeding
There are many reasons why a mother may decide to use baby formula instead of breastfeeding. It may be due to sickness, inability to breastfeed, or many other factors. In this case, baby formula is a healthy alternative, but the incorporation of pediatrician-approved probiotics could be beneficial as well.
For women adamant about not breastfeeding, it’s their prerogative, and they should never be shamed. If you are opting out of breastfeeding and still have immune concerns for your child, there are some alternatives.
Add live cultures to their meals. Make sure they eat asparagus and banana prebiotics to feed these cultures. Of course, make sure to talk to a doctor when introducing bacteria to your child’s diet!
Microbiome testing for mothers who breast pump
First, take a gut test. If you determine bacteria in the gut, you will know which intestinal flora might have interacted with your child.
With microbiome testing, you can go into a discussion with your doctor more educated on the gut flora in your child.
With your gut health test results, you can make a more educated decision about which formula is best for your child’s needs.
Mothers who are pumping their breast milk, you can strengthen your child’s immune system by supporting yours.
With microbiome testing, we can figure out which bacteria in the gut may be causing your GI issues.
Targeted probiotic supplement
Based on your gut flora, we recommend a target probiotic supplement that may help boost your immune response. In turn, the probiotics in breast milk that you pump will promote your child’s immune cell activity as well.
Probiotics for child
Work with your doctor to see if you can supplement probiotics for your child. While they will not get the growth factors or any of the other benefits, supplementing can help boost a child’s immune system and increase their gut health.
Although it is important to note that you have to be careful when supplementing. Some supplements may be low-quality or even be contaminated with strains of fungus and other bacteria.
This concern is why breastfeeding is so vital. Colostrum is a natural source of high-quality probiotics in breast milk. If you are willing to administer supplements to your child, make sure you do so under the supervision of your doctor.
Vaginal health for future children
Set your future children up for a healthy gut microbiome and immune system. These precautions can happen long before your pregnancy. Consider learning which bacteria are present in your vaginal microbiome.
Much like our gut bacteria, vaginal bacteria play a role in protecting the body from pathogenic microorganisms that want to invade your body.
Unlike the GI microbiome that encourages diverse gut microbes, your vaginal microbiome depends on Lactobacilli. Yup! These strains are most commonly found in yogurt, another dairy-based product. The milk microbiota circle continues!
These lactic acid bacteria regulate the pH levels to suppress potentially harmful bacteria, like Streptococcus, Enterococcus, and Staphylococcus.
Low levels of Lactobacilli can create health complications for mother and baby. An overly diverse vaginal microbiome has been linked to preterm delivery. That would change the mode of delivery that’s intended. In turn, the infant’s gut microbiota and immune system can become compromised.
- 1 Hendriks, J., & Blume, S. (2013). Measles vaccination before the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. American journal of public health, 103(8), 1393–1401. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.301075
- 2 Hurley, W. L., & Theil, P. K. (2011). Perspectives on immunoglobulins in Colostrum and milk. Nutrients, 3(4), 442–474. doi:10.3390/nu3040442
- 3 Gale, Chris, et al. “Effect of Breastfeeding Compared with Formula Feeding on Infant Body Composition: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22301930.
- 4 “The Effects of Bovine Colostrum Supplementation on Body Composition and Exercise Performance in Active Men and Women.” Nutrition, Elsevier, 12 Apr. 2001, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899900700005529?via%3Dihub.
- 5 Yan, J., Liu, L., Zhu, Y., Huang, G., & Wang, P. P. (2014). The association between breastfeeding and childhood obesity: a meta-analysis. BMC public health, 14, 1267. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-14-1267.
- 6 Ng, W. C., Wong, V., Muller, B., Rawlin, G., & Brown, L. E. (2010). Prevention and treatment of influenza with hyperimmune bovine colostrum antibody. PloS one, 5(10), e13622. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013622
- 7 Hill, D. R., & Newburg, D. S. (2015). Clinical applications of bioactive milk components. Nutrition reviews, 73(7), 463–476. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuv009
- 8 Mizrahi, M., Shabat, Y., Ben Ya’acov, A., Lalazar, G., Adar, T., Wong, V., … Ilan, Y. (2012). Alleviation of insulin resistance and liver damage by oral administration of Imm124-E is mediated by increased Tregs and associated with increased serum GLP-1 and adiponectin: results of a phase I/II clinical trial in NASH. Journal of inflammation research, 5, 141–150. doi:10.2147/JIR.S35227
- 9 Smaill, Fiona M., and Rosalee M. Grivell. “Antibiotic Prophylaxis versus No Prophylaxis for Preventing Infection after Cesarean Section.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Intervention, 28 Oct. 2014, www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007482.pub3/full.
- 10 “Prescription Medication Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Nov. 2020, www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/vaccinations-medications-drugs/prescription-medication-use.html.
- 11 K. Korpela, P. Costea, et al. “Probiotic Supplementation Restores Normal Microbiota Composition and Function in Antibiotic-Treated and in Caesarean-Born Infants.” Microbiome, BioMed Central, 1 Jan. 1970, microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-018-0567-4.