When your baby was born, their immune system was not fully developed yet. Before being born, a baby receives antibodies from the mother, which are passed through the placenta. These antibodies can help protect the baby from some illnesses and likely last a few months after a baby is born. But there are some ways to strengthen a baby’s immune system immediately.
Probiotic drops are another great way to boost your baby’s immune system by providing some additional beneficial bacteria to a baby’s digestive system. These drops can be especially important for babies born by C-section.
Breast Milk: Liquid Gold Immune System Booster
Breastfeeding is one of the most important ways a mother can pass along antibodies. Breast milk contains antibodies to germs the mother comes into contact with on a daily basis. These can immediately be transferred to the baby via breast milk and protect the baby from those illnesses. Breastfed babies often have fewer infections and recover more quickly than formula-fed babies, although a fed baby is best!
Breast milk also contains the appropriate blend of vitamins and minerals a baby needs to grow during each stage of life, and its composition continues to evolve as the baby gets older.
Vitamins for a Healthy Immune System
Breastfed babies (and some formula-fed babies) need additional vitamin D drops. Specific dosing can be discussed with your child’s pediatrician. The general recommendations are for breastfed babies to receive 400 IU of vitamin D per day. The same amount should be given to formula-fed babies if they take in less than 32 ounces of formula per day.
6 months old and beyond:
There are numerous ways to support a child’s immune system during that first year of life and well beyond!
- Once a child starts eating solid food, providing probiotic-rich foods like kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut will continue to help babies build their gut bacteria and support their immune systems.
- Prebiotics are food for the healthy bacteria in the gut. Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources and an important part of a balanced diet.
- Include Vitamin C rich foods: bell peppers, citrus fruit, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
- Include Vitamin A rich foods: sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, kale, egg yolks, and fatty fish
- Include Vitamin E fish foods: nuts, seeds, broccoli, avocado, peppers, and fatty fish
- Zinc and iron are also important for immunity: consume liver, meat, eggs, nuts, and seeds to get adequate sources of these minerals.
- Establish a consistent sleep schedule with a set bedtime and wake time. Sleep is key to fighting off illness and important for recovery during illness.
- Limit added sugars. Babies especially do not need added sugar. But even as they get older and enjoy a treat here and there, sugar can impact the gut microbiome negatively.
- Get the kids outside! As mentioned above, vitamin D is crucial for a robust immune system, and the sun is the best source!
- Consider vitamins – it’s wonderful to get all of a child’s nutrition from food, but it’s not always possible! A multivitamin, omega-3 fish oil, and vitamin D can help boost a picky eater’s immune system!