‘Breastfed babies don’t get sick’
But is that actually true?
In a word, no. Breastfed babies do of course get sick. Bubby D is a case in point – at only seven weeks old she developed her first ear infection, and has had them regularly ever since, ending up with a perforated ear drum that took 5 months to heal.
But it IS true that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from tummy bugs, ear infections, and conditions such as eczema – and this is all down to the really clever properties of breastmilk and the action of breastfeeding itself.
When babies are born, their guts are really immature and also fairly porous compared to the more developed gut of an adult. One of the things those first doses of colostrum do is help line the gut in a way that formula milks can’t – because a mothers breastmilk contains something called sIgA (secretory immunoglobulin A) which acts as a form of antibody protection, stopping allergens from passing through into the bloodstream.
Breastmilk also contains lots of friendly bacteria which combat the presence of harmful bacteria such as e.Coli and streptococci which can cause a poorly stomach.
Breastmilk also contains little sugars which act as anchors for any unnecessary iron to attach to and be flushed out of your baby’s system – and that’s why breastmilk poos smell sweet! You might be wondering WHY its necessary to flush out iron? Well, the reason is because iron which is hanging around can also act as a breeding ground for bacteria – so once more, breastmilk gets rid of it and therefore the risk of tummy bugs is lowered.
And the ear infections? Well – if you think about the effect that sucking a boiled sweet has when you’re in an aeroplane (it stops your ears from popping so much) then its pretty obvious that a process which requires babies to suck deeply would have a similar beneficial effect on their little ears which have much shorter eustachian tubes (the bit between the outer and inner ear) and are therefore far more susceptible to infection than those of an adult.
So there you have it. Yes, breastfed babies DO get sick. BUT they are less likely to get sick than a formula fed baby, and if they do get sick then they are likely to be poorly for a shorter time. All thanks to the specially tailored properties of breastmilk and the process of suckling.
Some of the other bloggers who have been writing about breastfeeding this week include: