Breastfeeding Can Help Build Up Baby's Immune System

Breastfeeding is a personal choice, but there's no doubt there are benefits of breastfeeding for mom (like bonding with baby and an easier way to lose baby weight) and for baby (like reduced levels of arsenic and antibody protection from measles).

Another important benefit for baby includes further protection against allergies, and a new study confirms that breastfeeding has positive affects on a baby's immune system from an early age.

Researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit conducted six separate studies to analyze connections between breastfeeding and the bacterial ecosystem (or microorganisms) in baby's gut that often affect the immune system. These microorganisms can often "contribute to a host of diseases like obesity, autoimmune diseases, circulating disorders, and pediatric allergies and infection," reports Science Daily.

In particular, the reseachers wanted to see how breastfeeding would stimulate the bacteria in baby's gut to protect against allergies and asthma. What they discovered was that breastfed babies (between 1 and 6 months) had more diverse microorganisms that would help regulate and develop the immune system, and that babies as young as 1 month had less risk of developing allergies (especially toward pets).

"The research is telling us that exposure to a higher and more diverse burden of environmental bacteria and specific patterns of gut bacteria appear to boost the immune system's protection against allergies and asthma," says Christine Cole Johnson, Ph.D., chair of Henry Ford's Department of Public Health Sciences and the lead researcher of the study. She believes the study adds supporto to the hygiene hypothesis theory that exposing kids to certain bacteria and germs at an early age can actually help boost the immune system.

Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com. She loves collecting children's picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea.

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Photo: Mom breastfeeding baby outdoors via Shutterstock

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