Breast milk can have a huge positive impact on the biology of a baby, and in honor of World Breast Feeding Week, I wanted to give a little info on why!
Breastfeeding helps form a strong emotional bond between mother and child, but it also provides nutrition, bolsters baby’s physical health, helps prevent common childhood infections, and may lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Quick side note: I know that not everyone is able to give their baby breast milk, and I don’t want to paint the picture that your baby will not be healthy if you choose to go the formula route. Our own children came to us through adoption; two were older, and we made homemade formula for the one who was still an infant. Breastfeeding is a very personal decision and in today’s current climate that choice is more difficult than ever. But if you do choose to breastfeed your infant, this article will better inform that decision.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Human Milk is a Source of Bacteria to the Infant Gut
Did you know when a breast-feeding mother breathes in a virus or bacteria, she creates antibodies to that virus or bacteria and secretes the antibodies in her breast milk?
Bacteria and probiotics that are consumed from fresh foods also end up in the breast milk. Even skin bacteria antibodies will work their way to the immune system of a breast-feeding baby. (Check out this article for a little more information on how this is possible!)
Breast Lymph Tissues, Breast Milk and a Baby’s Immune System
Everything is interconnected to everything else. This applies to the immune system as well. Lymph nodes in the mouth and nasal passageways (called NALT), lungs (called BALT), skin (called SALT), GI tract (called GALT)—and anywhere there is a cell to surface connection—have lymph tissues and lymph. These systems all connect with each other and are constantly talking to one another. So a virus breathed in through the nose results in antibodies being made in the GI tract and on the skin.
This interconnection of lymph node systems also includes the breast lymph tissues (called Breast Associated Lymphoid tissues).
So check this out. A mother goes to her garden and pulls up some lettuce or buys fresh local lettuce from the farmers market. That lettuce has soil based organisms on it. When consumed, the soil based organisms activate the GALT (GI tract lymph nodes) to make an immune regulating response and ultimately activate all of the mucous associated lymphoid tissues in the body. Eventually this includes the breast and breast milk which then ‘educates’ the baby’s maturing immune system.
This is just one more way that our internal environment is always interacting with the external and how a mom can also transfer this to a breastfeeding child.
The chain of soil based organisms from produce to mom to baby is also a prime example of the power of real (versus processed) foods. Living foods activate and improve our system. Processed foods do not. You are what you eat, touch, breath, digest—and you are not what you excrete (via the urine, sweat, breath and feces).
If you would like more information about this and other topics check out our education tab right here on our website!
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.
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