Strengthening the littlest immune systems by Dr. Kaitlyn
Parents of newborns, you more than most, know that the cold and flu season is filled with snotty noses, grotty coughs and sleepless nights. In fact, your little one’s immune system is so new and immature, that it may or may not surprise you to know that before their first birthday they can endure up to six to eight colds (*fantastic!*).
This doesn’t need to be the case.
The challenge here is to not think of it as a cold. Instead, see it as our little one building their microbiome or their good gut garden. Research has recently suggested that a babies’ immune system may, in fact, stand down, not taking on every battle with every germ so that all the ‘good’ microbes have a chance to settle in – building our gut immunity. This is so important when 70% of our (adults) immune system lives in our gut (Click here to read Dr. Matt’s blog for more). Our little babes are practically born with a blank slate and our first line of business is to collect our bacterial community.
Here is how to help build the best immune system for your bub to make a lasting impression on their health.
1. Stay healthy throughout your PREGNANCY. This means a balanced diet, appropriate exercise and making sure you ‘nurture thy self’ throughout the journey.
2. BIRTH is a personal decision or one that can be made for you, but it does play a role in a baby developing immune system. During a vaginal delivery, the bub is exposed to a diverse range of microbes as it passes through the birth canal, this exposure is the beginning of their microbiome and therefore immune system. A Caesarean delivery means this contact is absent missing out on establishing some key species such as Bifidobacterium which is essential for proper gut function and therefore a strong immune system (see source here).
3. BREASTFEED if you can. We have heard that breast is best and there is a reason why. Initially, breast milk contains colostrum which helps fight infections and promote immunity (pretty awesome!) with mature milk producing antibodies to help fight sickness.In fact, it is so impressive that it has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS, eczema, asthma and UTI and for those breast-fed exclusively for 16 week or more have a 50% lower rate of otitis media (ear infections).
4. SKIN TO SKIN CONTACT – Is not only needed for the bonding process but is also a great activity to build immunity. It gives bubba an opportunity to add to their gut garden as they become colonized with mums bacteria. Here is where skin to skin contact is amazing. Mum’s milk will then produce antibodies to protect baby from that colony adding to bubbas immunity.
5. REDUCE THE ANTIBACTERIALS – With majority of colds and flus being viral overuse of antibacterial gels might not have the affect you expect. In fact exposure to all sorts of bacteria will enhance the immune system in the years to come. We still obviously recommend maintaining good hygiene. This leads us to our next point
6. BE ANTIBIOTIC AWARE – Antibiotics are useful for bacterial infections and with most colds and flus being viral they might not be appropriate for every sniffle and cough. In fact, the Royal Australiasian Collage physicians – EVOLVE wrote:
‘Given that inappropriate prescribing of antibiotic is a major cause of antibiotic resistance and antibiotics has adverse effects, it is not considered good clinical practice to prescribe antibiotics in children without a specific bacterial infection’.
Sometimes rest is best.
7. EAT THE GOOD STUFF – this means plenty of fruit and veg. Sweet potato and berries for example aids the immune system and contains antioxidants and vitamin A. Breastfeeding? A healthy diet here is key.
8. KEEP HYDRATE – This might mean regular breastfeeding schedule, watering down their favorite puree or adding water to juice if they are at that stage
9. OUTSIDE AND IN THE SUNSHINE – We know that too much sunshine is a no-no for our little ones. But some filtered sun outside under a tree, in the open air, moving their little bodies and getting there hands into the earth helps build immunity and an overall healthy bub.
10. GET ADJUSTED – as Chiropractors, we are concerned with the function of the spine and nervous system. So, take it from Dr Candice Pert who is a recognized leader in psychoneuroimmunology, who credits chiropractic as having ‘a significant effect on maximizing immunity via maintenance of a healthy nervous system’. That boost for your bubs immune system might begin with a chiropractic consultation.
After all, we would do anything for our littlest ones and by giving their immune system that extra little bit of love now will mean that their happy gut garden can flourish and give the gut and immune system the strength it needs to do the job it was designed to do.
Stay Well Bubbas,