Your gut is the starting point of your immune system and contains a plethora of nutrients, bacteria and sometimes pathogens. Start right from the beginning. Focus on giving your baby a strong immunity.
Your new-born’s immune system is not nearly as effective as yours, and it can take months before your little one is able to fight off infection as efficiently as a more matured body. The good news is your pregnant body is geared up to pass on exactly what your baby needs to build solid defence mechanisms against disease and infection. Disease fighting anti-bodies made in your immune system make their way across the placenta and into your baby’s body. These anti-bodies provide an extra level of protection during your baby’s most vulnerable months until they are effectively able to make their own anti-bodies.
A GUT FEEL
Your gut is the starting point of your immune system and contains a plethora of nutrients, bacteria and sometimes pathogens. Your baby acquires some gut bacteria from your digestive system during pregnancy. The very first types of bacteria to make a home in your baby’s tummy will determine immune system function for the rest of his or her life. That’s why eating well and staying healthy during your pregnancy are the first steps in helping your baby’s immune system to develop.
IT STARTS WITH YOU, MOM
The type and amount of antibodies passed to your baby depends on your immunity. There are many benefits to keeping healthy before conception and during pregnancy for you and your baby. Choosing foods low in sugar and fat, and eating a variety of fresh, nutritious foods go a long way in helping to build a strong immune system for your child.
How you give birth can have an impact on the development of your child’s immune system. Babies born through the vaginal canal receive different types of bacteria to babies born by caesarean section. Research consistently finds that using a doula or midwife can significantly reduce the necessity of a C-section. I’m not suggesting you squat under a tree when the time comes, however a natural birth is quite possibly the best thing you can do to safeguard the future of your baby’s immune system. After all, we are perfectly designed for the process.
THE VALUE OF BREAST FEEDING
Your breast milk is heaving with white blood cells and immunity-enhancing antibodies designed to safeguard your little one against all sorts of infections and allergies. One of the myriad benefits of breastfeeding is that your milk is easy to digest and gentle on your baby’s tummy. The thin, yellow ‘pre-milk’ that comes during the first few days after birth is known as colostrum. This pre-milk is especially rich in disease fighting anti-bodies. The World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of the baby’s life. Research suggests that, if you are able to, you should aim to breastfeed your baby for at least the first two to three months after giving birth to enhance the immunity your baby got while you were pregnant. By breastfeeding, you are setting your child’s immune system up for a lifetime of good health.
WAYS TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM WHILE PREGNANT
Vitamin D is vital. In South Africa, we’re lucky enough to be exposed to sunshine most of the time, but it’s still a good idea to eat foods rich in Vitamin D as well. Cod liver oil is a great source of Vitamin D, as are oily fish, portabello mushrooms, dairy, pork, eggs and soy products.
Vitamin A plays a big role in your immunity. Be very careful about taking synthetic supplements, however, as this can be dangerous to your baby. Get yours naturally with sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, winter squashes, lettuce, dried apricots, cantaloupe, bell peppers, fish, liver, and tropical fruits.
Probiotics are key to maintaining your immunity. Fermented food is a great source of probiotics, and that may be why many women experience a craving for pickles while pregnant.
Nutrients are difficult to come by in today’s world – try to eat organic and fresh at all times, but you may need to supplement with a good multivitamin as well.
A deficiency in magnesium leads to lowered immunity, headaches and fatigue. Magnesium can also be an effective way to ward off morning sickness.
DID YOU KNOW?
a German study has found that babies who sleep on animal fur for the first three months of life are almost 80% less likely to have asthma when they’re six years old? Previous research has found that children who grow up around animals are also less likely to develop asthma and allergies because the microbes in animal skins help to build up a stronger immune system.