A strong immune system is what protects the body against various common illnesses. However, in case of a baby, it takes time for the immune system to develop and become as robust as an adult’s. And you should also know that at the same age, the immune system in two babies might not be the same. Worry no more though! Read all about the ways in which you can improve your little one’s immunity and make him or her healthier.
Development of the immune system
Bacteria or other foreign bodies entering the bloodstream are called antigens. And immunity is a defence mechanism against these microorganisms, and toxins produced by pathogens or foreign proteins. A specific protein is produced in the body as a response to the antigen, and is called an antibody or an immune body.
Now, the mother’s milk is rich in antibodies and is transferred through breast milk. These antibodies guard the mucosal surfaces, prevent the entry of pathogens, and provide protection against several illnesses that might develop when a baby grows up.
Infections and impact on growth
Infants are typically more susceptible to infections as their immune system is not well-developed. The foetus in the uterus is normally protected by the placental barrier. But, some pathogens might be able to cross this barrier, causing infections that result in growth and development delays, and sometimes, even death.
The most common infectious diseases affecting infants include:
- Acute respiratory diseases
- Parasitic infections
Immunity is the resistance exhibited by the host towards the injury caused by microorganisms and their toxins. There are two types of immunity, innate and acquired. Immature neonatal response to microorganisms can
- Increase susceptibility to infections
- Lead to the development of allergies
- Reduce response to vaccines
Inadequate food intake can lead to weight loss, poor growth, and decreased immunity against infections.
Ways to improve immunity in babies
Breastfeeding: Breast milk contains proteins, fats, sugars, and antibodies, which help support your baby’s immune system. Breastfeeding guards against infections, allergies, diarrhoea, pneumonia, and also enhances brain power. Breastfed babies are less prone to infections when compared to formula-fed babies.
Vaccination: Vaccinate your baby to get the best protection against dangerous diseases. Vaccines prevent serious illnesses such as diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, influenza, and chickenpox. So, follow the routine childhood immunization schedule as recommended by your doctor. Keep a vaccination record ready and report any side-effects to your doctor immediately.
Foods that boost immunity in babies
Support your child’s health by providing these immune-boosting foods for babies.
- Colourful vegetables – Foods packed with vitamin A, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and green leafy vegetables, help to fight many infections. Sweet potatoes can be baked and served without peeling the skin. Carrots taste best when boiled or steamed.
- Yoghurt - Yoghurt is rich source of protein, which helps in the growth and repair of cells in the body, including white blood cells. Yoghurt promotes immunity and supports for gut health. You can serve yogurt with fruits or crushed nuts.
- Citrus fruits - These fruits are rich in vitamin C and include oranges, and papayas. Vitamin C accelerates wound healing, minimises cell damage, and protects the body against various illnesses.
- Vitamin D foods - Vitamin D helps build strong bones and keeps your child fit and healthy. The best sources of this vitamin are fortified milk, complementary foods with added vitamin D, and fishes. Natural sunlight is also a good source of vitamin D. However, avoid exposure to the sun between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Fish –Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which increase the number of white blood cells, to combat infections efficiently.
- Zinc - Cereals, lean meats, nuts, whole grains, and beans are rich in zinc, which is essential to boost your baby’s immunity. Zinc increases the production of white blood cells and promotes wound healing.
- Garlic - Allicin, a sulphur compound found in garlic, helps fight harmful bacteria and viruses, and increases the white blood cell count, thereby boosting the immune system. Garlic is a natural flavouring agent and can be added to many savoury recipes.
- Nuts - Nuts are rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants
So, now, you have all the information you need to enhance your baby’s immunity and gift him a healthy life. Keep the above tips on vaccination, breastfeeding and diet in mind, and also consult your child’s doctor for better guidance.