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Can Breastfeeding boost your child’s immunity during the Covid 19 pandemic?

We all embrace new motherhood with a lot of love and tenderness. Breastfeeding is the cornerstone of infant and young child survival, nutrition and development and maternal health.

A baby’s immune system is immature when they are born. It develops throughout life as they are exposed to different germs that can cause disease.

Antibodies are passed from mother to baby through the placenta during the third trimester (last 3 months of pregnancy). This gives the baby some protection when they are born. The type and amount of antibodies passed to the baby depends on the mother’s own level of immunity.

During birth, bacteria from the mother’s vagina is passed on to the baby. This helps to build the colony of bacteria in the gut that contributes to their immunity.

After birth, more antibodies are passed on to the baby in colostrum and in breast milk

The passive immunity passed on from the mother at birth also doesn’t last long and will start to decrease in the first few weeks and months after birth.

Breast milk contains many elements that support your baby’s immune system. These include proteins, fats, sugars and antibodies and probiotics. When a mother comes into contact with germs, she develops antibodies to help her fight off the infection. These are passed to the baby in breast milk. As mothers and babies are usually exposed to similar germs, this means the baby is protected.

Breastfed babies have fewer infections and get better more quickly than formula-fed babies.

Definitely early and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact, rooming-in and kangaroo mother care also significantly improve neonatal survival and reduce morbidity .

Breastfeeding is a key preventive health step for baby and mother, even during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Benefits of breastfeeding during the COVID 19 pandemic-

Breastfeeding is good for babies:

Breastfeeding is particularly effective against infectious diseases because it strengthens the immune system by directly transferring antibodies from the mother. As with all confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, mothers with any symptoms who are breastfeeding or practicing skin-to-skin contact should take precautions.

Breastfeeding is good for moms:

Hormones released in the mother’s body during breastfeeding promote wellness and can relieve stress and anxiety.

A nutritive diet for lactating mothers is a must during the COVID times. “Now you need to eat for two. A its very important to have a well balanced diet along with immunity boosting foods. An infant is completely dependent on the mother for all his/her needs, be it food, immunity, hygiene, sleep or attachment.

If a baby doesn’t get nutritious milk, she will have a lowered immunity and become unhealthy and also demand frequent feeds.

When a mother is breastfeeding, she needs to include galactagogues in her diet. Galactagogues are those foods that facilitate milk production and increase it.

You must eat foods that give strength and speed up the process of healing. Shatavari, fenugreek and fennel seeds,Milk,Almonds,Orange Masoor dal,Spinach,Garlic,Sesame and poppy seeds, Ragi kanji and cinnamon also help in increasing milk secretions.

Since, the baby is in the growing stage and needs lots of proteins. Mothers must eat lots of proteins for 2 reasons. one to meet the growing baby’s requirement and for self-healing.Soybean, chicken, grilled fish, and egg whites can be included in less spicy and grilled form , soaked almonds(15 pieces per day), moong dal, paneer and cheese. Have chickpeas and lentils too.

A lactating mother should drink ample liquids since it helps in milk production. Less intake can lead to dehydration and decreased supply of milk. Water and coconut water,Vegetable-based soups made out of spinach, bottle gourd, beetroot, and carrots are super beneficial. Also, Ragi kanji, buttermilk and milk, etc are good options. Drinking a liquid half an hour prior to feeding is most beneficial.

Eat lots of whole grains and whole-grain foods since these are highly nutritious and easily digestible, whole wheat flour,oats and broken wheat daliya,brown rice, quinoa, ragi, museli, etc.

Consume Green leafy vegetables and fruits periodically in order to get lots of vitamins and minerals. They help in better milk production and a good let down effect. Vitamins are essential for the proper growth of the baby and to get the systems to function normally in a mother after delivery. These are also needed to boost immunity and are a must especially during Covid pandemic.

Vitamin A:carrots , red bell peppers,spinach, black eyed peas,mango helps regulate immune response.

Vitamin C:Kale , orange, broccoli, berries, tomatoes ,Vitamin E:nuts,seeds,wheat germ,avocado,shrimp,green leafy vegetables, protects from oxidative stress.

Vitamin B6 :green leafy vegetables,chickpeas,salmon, tuna,they support efficient reactions between different parts of immune system.

Have a calcium rich, include milk and milk products like curd, cheese, paneer, salmon, green leafy vegetables like kale, mustard greens, and turnip tops, Ragi, sesame and Rajgeera.

BY: Therapeutic Dietitian , Mehak Sethi

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