Healthy Kids

Sharing Immunities through Breastfeeding


I was recently sick with a nasty stomach bug. I worried my daughter would get it, especially since she had something similar a month or so before. As bad as I felt being sick myself, it was much more horrible to watch her little body go through it. It was definitely something I don’t want to repeat anytime soon.

With both of these illnesses, mine and hers, I had to remember that we have an extra weapon in our collective back pocket. I knew that no matter how sick we got, breastfeeding would help.

If your baby or toddler is sick, breastmilk contains multitudes of healthful ingredients that will help them overcome the illness and sustain them as they fight it and recover. When my daughter was sick, she couldn’t keep down anything but breastmilk. Although she did need to be given some IV fluids, I know that she would have been in much worse shape if she was not breastfeeding.

Common sense might tell you that when you come down with something you should stay away from your baby or toddler. When you are nursing, the opposite is really true. By the time you have started showing signs of an illness – be it a cold, the flu, or a stomach virus – your child has already been exposed to it. By continuing to breastfeed your little one, you are giving him antibodies your body has created for that specific sickness through your milk.

This is also the case when your child is exposed to germs as they’re passed around a room, or is trying out the tastiness of the shopping cart’s handle, or is given a toy that has another baby’s germs on it. Your baby’s mouth will transfer these germ cells to you through the areola (the darker skin around your nipple) and your body will immediately begin to create antibodies to put back into the milk for your baby to drink at the next feeding.

Watching my daughter brave the playground and preschool is made a little easier knowing that she is provided with antibodies each time she nurses. Sharing immunities through breastfeeding is one of the big perks of nursing into toddlerhood. That, and the sweet smiles they give to you as they nurse, the silly names they come up with for your “milkies” (mine are called Dis Side and Da Udder Side), the crazy positions they nurse in that make you laugh at their creativity.

So, the next time you’re nursing your kiddo, remember that no matter what you’ve done since climbing out of bed, no matter how many germs you both have encountered or how many temper tantrums you’ve endured, you’re doing more than it seems on the surface – you’re not only providing nourishment and bonding with him, you’re building his immune system for now and for the long run.

All from the comfort of your favorite rocking chair!

Our bodies are amazing, aren’t they?

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  • Claire
    August 20, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    My older daughter didn’t puke for the first time until about a month after she weaned. I feel really lucky that we went over 3 years without a child puking though! And even this last stomach bug that we had, she vomited a few times, but little sister only got diarrhea. I’m convinced that it’s because little sister is still nursing.

    • Leslee
      August 25, 2013 at 3:40 AM

      That’s wonderful to hear, Claire! This was the first time my daughter had been so incredibly sick, around two and a half, it was horrible to see. You’ve given your older daughter a great start to a healthy life through breastfeeding, and certainly your little one is, too!