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can giving older children breast-milk help their immune system?

(17 Posts)
SummerChicken Sat 11-Oct-08 15:23:41

just wondering, because I'm breast-feeding my 6-month old and my 2 year-old has had lots of little colds/bugs this summer/autumn. My baby seems to be taking all the germs she's being exposed to pretty much in her stride and I'm sure the breast-milk's helping. I was wondering...if I squirted some bm into ds' food would it have a protective effect? Or would it be too little/not effective for him any longer?

Has anybody out there done this? (He's not about to nurse from me, btw, firmly gave up all attempts at 5 months and that was that sad) His immune system is generally fine, just wondered since I'm lactating anyway if it was worth trying. (Maybe I'm just trying to get maximum "value" out of the breast-milk since I went through such agony, stress/grief etc. to breast-feed both times and can't quite believe I've really succeeded this time round!)

Blandmum Sat 11-Oct-08 15:29:47

It would give him antibodies to Micro-organisms that you have 'met' but he has not.

But the protection given would be 'passive' and would wear off once he stopped getting the milk (IYSWIM)

Not sure what amont he would need for it to be effective, but there are loads of experts on MN who will be along soon with an answer I'm sure

Mij Sat 11-Oct-08 15:32:40

Well done for getting this far!

I know that bfing continues to support the immune system of older bfed chidren, but I have no idea if it would work by adding to other food, but what an interesting idea. If you were tandem feeding, your milk would be at the right stage for the younger child anyway, so I can't see why giving it to your DS in another form would be any different.

Of course, your DS is likely to be coming into contact with more bugs anyway, being more active and sociable, so it could be just that, but what the hell, why not try it?!

Mij Sat 11-Oct-08 15:35:09

MB - isn't the theory that you can support the child's immune system via antibodies in milk, which isn't entirely protective but gives them immune back-up against bugs they catch, and enables them to fight them off more effectively. If they do catch somthing and have a mild dose, they will form their own antibodies too and therefore strengthens their own system.

Or have I misundertood..?

Blandmum Sat 11-Oct-08 15:43:37

You give them the antibodies.

They will be protected by those antibodies, while they last/are being given to themvia the breast milk. But they don't make them themselves, as they don't have acrive memory cells for those antibodies IYSWIM

Which doesn't negate the positive effect, but it doesn't give them protection beyond the BF period either. Otherwise none of us would get anything that our mothers had

Blandmum Sat 11-Oct-08 15:43:39

You give them the antibodies.

They will be protected by those antibodies, while they last/are being given to themvia the breast milk. But they don't make them themselves, as they don't have acrive memory cells for those antibodies IYSWIM

Which doesn't negate the positive effect, but it doesn't give them protection beyond the BF period either. Otherwise none of us would get anything that our mothers had

Mij Sat 11-Oct-08 16:05:00

Think I'm having a thick day.

But if, let's say, a baby gets a cold, and the mum's body reacts by making antibodies then passed on through the milk (through that amazing germ-riddled-baby-saliva on mums skin makes mum produce antibodies thing), won't the baby also be making some antibodies, that are then just boosted by Mum passing on some extra?

Starting to think I must really have got the wrong end of at least one stick...

Blandmum Sat 11-Oct-08 16:20:49

No, It doesn't really work like that.

You can only make antibodies to something that you have already met.

So. You have cold, produced by virus X. You make antibodies to virus X, you kill it and you get better.

Next time you 'meet' virus X, your memory cells in the immune system say 'Ah Ha!, I have see you before!' and pump out tonnes of antibodies, which kill off the virus before it can make you ill.

This is why you tend to get things once only (colds you get a lots because there are lots of versions out there!)

When you give your baby a feed, you pass on your antibodies, so they don't get virus X because your antibodies protect them. But this is a passive protection. It doesn't help their memory cells to be created.

Once you stop feeding, the immunity is lost, until they get in contact with Virus X and make their own memory cells and antibodies

The skin is a great protection against diseases btw and is the bodies first line of defence

Mij Sat 11-Oct-08 16:32:16

Sorry, feeling like I've hijacked your thread here SC...

I totally get the 'you make antibodies to what you've met' thing. And that was beautifully explained, thank you.

But - and I think I may need a BFC here or I need a quick trip to - I thought that when a baby does meet virus X, and starts making its own antibodies to virus X, that through the Mum meeting virus X too, through general contact with the baby as well as breastfeeding, within hours Mum's milk contains more antibodies to virus X, thus supporting the baby's own immune response.

Which is also why, I thought, when bfed babies do catch something, they often appear to have a milder dose and recover more quickly.

I will do my best to find my source for that info, but am also prepared to be corrected!

Where's tiktok when you need her...

Blandmum Sat 11-Oct-08 16:36:55

Unless Mum has already met Virus X, her system is going to be as slow as a 2 year olds.

and isn't going to pump stuff out fast enough to stop herself, or baby, from falling ill.

The ability to 'save' the babe, from falling ill if she has already been in contact with X, will depend on, I would imagine, how rapid her own response is, and how much milk the baby/toddler gets.

TinkerBellesMum Sat 11-Oct-08 16:46:31

A child's immune system isn't fully developed until well after 2 so Mum's system would be faster than the older child's. It would also give some extra antibodies to what the child is making.

Mij Sat 11-Oct-08 16:46:34

I don't think I imagined it would stop the baby falling ill, but maybe reduce severity of symptoms..? [clutches wildly at straws]

This isn't what I was looking for, but it might still be interesting for the OP...

interesting link

Not all of it relevant but still fascinating (to bfing geek like me, anyway...)

Thanks for a very interesting thread!

Blandmum Sat 11-Oct-08 16:50:16

It deffo wouldn't do any harm.

the amount of good it would do would , I would imagine, be down to how much milk the child got.

also if food was hot it could denature the proteins

Mij Sat 11-Oct-08 16:59:56


this is what I was looking for re: mum's immune response.

Pleased I hadn't imagined it!

Blandmum Sat 11-Oct-08 17:04:48

while the mum will start making antibodies, it still does take time to produce them the first time round. Which is why we initially fall ill, because the micro-organisms grow faster than out antibodies can wipe them out. And this will also hold true for the baby getting the 'preperpared' antibodies.

The response to the second challenge is much, much faster

SummerChicken Sun 12-Oct-08 08:50:21

Mij, don't worry about hijacking my thread, I'm finding all this fascinating! (think I am becoming a breast-feeding geek too though a very baby geek indeed)

sits back and hopes for more...

BTW I have found since breast-feeding my immune system has been much better, so I do believe that bf helps mother's immune system or could the fenugreek I'm taking be a i.s. booster? hmm

puccaredlove Thu 28-Apr-16 07:13:29

I have an 8 year old and my new baby girl about to be 3 months Breastfeeding son I did not breastfeed and he gets sick every so often thing is when he does get sick over the counter medicine is not enough and i always end up having to take him to his pediatrician and he ends up missing school this time the thought of making him a fruit smoothie with my breast milk popped into my head. I just thought this would be a perfect time to test the theories of breast milk and also to prove -if it worked- if it would be any good past 6-12 months or even 24-48 months, and the CONCLUSION drum roll....1 day later his sickness was completely gone it was so~from one moment to the next that even my son came and asked me "Mom i was sick and the next day i wasnt anymore how come" and i said" i dont know phoenix why" He said "that doesnt happen, its never happened to me." But i didnt tell him that i had given him my milk because i was a little worried he would be upset or grossed out, i did tell my grandmother though which then he over heard the conversation but he didnt seemed to bothered actually thank god, and he actually hasnt been sick since then when we have been (myself, mom, and husband-and children he's played with) When they named this GOLDEN MILK they were right to name it that.

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