Hands Off! How to Keep Baby Healthy This Winter

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Jennifer L.W. Fink on Feb 16, 2011 at 5:22PM

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Hands Off! How to Keep Baby Healthy This Winter

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Breastfeed if You Can

The common cold might be an inconvenience for you, but for your baby, it’s a big deal. (Have you ever tried to breathe and suck down milk while your nose was all stuffed up?) Unfortunately, babies are more susceptible than adults to just about every common winter illness, from colds to stomach bugs – and a virus that causes minor symptoms in adults could land your baby in the hospital. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to keep your baby healthy throughout the coldermonths.

Breast milk is an amazing immunity booster. It contains leucocytes, a certain type of white blood cell that battles germs, and substances that inhibit bacterial growth.  Nursing your infant can also provide disease-specific immunity – a big help when Daddy brings home a nasty cold from work. Your body will begin producing antibodies soon after exposure to the germs; these antibodies, which are specifically tailored to fight the virus causing Daddy’s cold, are passed to your baby via your breast milk. “As long as you’re breastfeeding, you’re passing on customized protection to your baby,” says Laura Jana, MD, coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality.

Babies are most likely to get sick in the second half on their first year, when the immunity you transferred to your baby at birth begins to wear off.  So if you can, "continue nursing your baby from six to 12 months, especially if your baby hits those ages in the winter," advises Alan Greene, MD, a pediatrician and authir of Feeding Baby Green.


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