COVID-19: Why breastfeeding is so important to the infant immune system

  1. During vaginal birth and breastfeeding, the baby acquires microbes from the mum’s vagina, from her gut, from her skin, from her breast milk plus other environmental exposures.
  2. In the infant gut, the microbes acquired from the mum are fed by the special sugars called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) in breast milk. HMOs are third largest component of breast milk and they are personalised to each mum’s milk.
  3. Fed by the HMOs, specific microbes acquired from the mum proliferate and rapidly colonise the infant gut.
  4. These are the microbes that help train the infant immune system to correctly identify what is harmless (to be tolerated) and what is harmful (to be attacked).
  5. This helps protect a baby for life.

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Toni Harman

Toni Harman

I help parents and health professionals better understand the science of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and the microbiome.