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New mommies can help protect their babies from COVID-19 by simply increasing the strength of their immune systems. If you are breastfeeding your baby, this is even simpler to do than you may realize. Rather than stock up on toilet paper and cough syrup, I am really surprised many families aren’t stocking up on vitamins, herbs, raw honey, elderberry syrup, and other amazing, yet simple ways to really boost both mama and baby’s immune systems!
What do we know about COVID-19 and babies?
Unfortunately, we don’t know much – yet. What we do know is that those with weakened immune systems, lung issues, and pre-existing conditions that weaken the immune system are the most at risk. If your baby is healthy, and happy, with no existing conditions that might affect their immune system, they are less likely to have major symptoms if infected. But, with a robust immune system, the chances of the virus living at all can be very little!
Does breast milk protect your baby from COVID-19?
Breast milk contains antimicrobial cells that fight germs and viruses. This is mother nature’s way of protecting small infants from infections and disease. I found this research to be amazing.
,,, it has been shown in man and in several animal models that immunization via the gut, and also the lungs, stimulates a special population of antibody-producing B lymphocytes. They appear in large numbers in special aggregations in the gut – the Peyer’s patches. These lymphocytes leave the gut after having met bacteria and viruses there and move or “home” to exocrine glands such as the mammary, lacrimal and salivary glands, as well as glands in the mucosal membranes of the bronchi and the gut. As a consequence, human milk contains sIgA antibodies against all those bacteria and viruses which have been in the mother’s gut. This gives the milk capacity to protect against those microorganisms to which the infant is exposed, because they are usually the same as those its mother has been in contact with.
L A Hanson et al. Breastfeeding protects against infections and allergy. Breastfeeding Review; Nov l988 , pp l9 – 22.
How amazing is your breast milk? One of the major notes in that statement is the mother’s gut, which gets us into the first way you can boost your baby’s immune system.
The best methods to strengthen your baby’s immune system and fight COVID-19:
Focus on your gut health
Your gut is a great place for both good and bad bacteria to grow. It can also alter the chemical balances in your body, depending on the food you are giving the bacteria to feed off of. As we read above, the gut signals the creation of antibodies in breast milk. If your gut is off, it can’t properly signal the need for antimicrobial cells in breast milk.
The best way to strengthen your gut, as a breastfeeding mom is to
- Cut out sugar, dairy, processed foods, and some meats that tend to feed the bad bacteria and alter the chemical state of your body. Further reading in this book will open your eyes!!
- Drink more water and less sugar or sweeteners. The bad bacteria love sugar, and can even feed off of fake sugars, so switch to plain water as much as possible.
- Take a good probiotic. I will put some of my personal favorites from a brand I trust and have used for years. This is the fastest way to heal your gut and ensure you are boosting your own immune system.
The best probiotics for breastfeeding moms:
Ora Organics Trust Your Gut is by far the best and easiest to take. This is the one I am taking now. If you’d rather just take a pill, they have that as well. I’ve personally chatted with, and work with their CEO, so I know the quality that goes into their supplements. Being in the business myself, the supplement industry needs more brands like them!
Culturelle probiotics were also recommended to me years ago by my naturopath who healed my gut. If you want to grab a quick probiotic on Amazon, this is a great brand with the right blend of probiotics.
In addition to getting your gut health on track, your nutrition is really important to your immune system.
Boost your nutrition to boost your baby’s immune system:
Research shows that the health of your baby is affected by your nutrition both during pregnancy and lactation. A study found in rats that the rats fed a diet restricted in protein or energy during lactation were delayed in reaching puberty (source). Increasing the number of fruits and vegetables, and eating lean protein is the best way to really encourage the overall health of mama and baby. My free 10-day reset can guide you on what that looks like, with recipes, so both you and your baby can benefit from the power of nutrition and the immune system.
I also take this vitamin daily and believe it is amazing in conjunction with my protein powder, to ensure I am getting the folate I need, B vitamins, protein, and superfoods to fight off any viruses that come my way.
Increase your protein, decrease your carbs:
One scholarly article correlates a lack of protein energy with a weakened immune system. I preach the power of protein here and even have a specially formulated protein powder for breastfeeding mamas to nourish their bodies and increase breast milk. Protein is an essential nutrient that we need. By eating a lot of processed carbohydrates, we are leaving less room for protein and essentially starving our bodies of the amino acids necessary to build healthy cells.
Here are some great protein sources to start adding to your diet now:
- Plant-based protein powder with pea protein for the full amino acid profile.
- Organic, free-range eggs
- Wild-caught fish/tuna
- Lean ground turkey (free-range)
- Grass-fed beef on the leaner side
All of these protein sources need to replace bread, pasta, rice, and crackers. Combine your protein with colorful fruits and veggies, and your baby’s immune system will benefit greatly!
In addition to really targeting the foundation of your health and immune system, there are some supplements you can grab to help as well.
Start taking Elderberry Syrup Daily:
I grabbed two bottles of these and finally jumped on the bandwagon. Many moms I talked to swear by the Elderberry syrup, and research does show its potential to protect from viruses and infections.
Elderberries have been used traditionally, and in some observational and clinical studies, as supportive agents against the common cold and influenza.
In the above article, a study showed that Elderberry syrup helped reduce the length and symptoms of the common cold. We do know that COVID-19 is more like the influenza virus, but possibly worse and still unknown, but we can speculate that because it is a similar virus, the Elderberry syrup may have the same effects. In another study, it helped minimize flu symptoms as well, so I think it is pretty safe to say it is worth taking during this time. And of course, the baby will benefit because of the helpful properties that get passed through the breast milk.
Grab a good vitamin C and Zinc supplement:
Vitamin C has been proven to be an amazing immune system enhancer. Vitamin C is literally an agent to help build your immune system army, and what you intake, your baby will also intake.
Supplementation of vitamin C was found to improve components of the human immune system such as antimicrobial and natural killer cell activities, lymphocyte proliferation, chemotaxis, and delayed-type hypersensitivity. Vitamin C contributes to maintaining the redox integrity of cells and thereby protects them against reactive oxygen species generated during the respiratory burst and in the inflammatory response.
Zinc also plays a major role in the functioning of your immune system.
Likewise, zinc undernutrition or deficiency was shown to impair cellular mediators of innate immunity such as phagocytosis, natural killer cell activity, and the generation of oxidative burst. Therefore, both nutrients play important roles in immune function and the modulation of host resistance to infectious agents, reducing the risk, severity, and duration of infectious diseases.
There are tons of options at local stores and on Amazon in terms of supplements. I found the gummies to be the easiest for all of us to take, including myself. They are easy on the tummy and easy to remember. Find one you like, and take it daily to really give your immune system the important nutrients it needs to function. Studies have proven to us over and over again the nutritional intake of a lactating mother affects the health of your baby, so what you take to boost your immune system is also boosting your baby.
Lastly, get your sleep:
As a breastfeeding mama, this is probably the hardest because breastfeeding babies don’t really sleep through the night. But, with many of the school closures, if you are fortunate to not have to work, take it easy, take naps and sleep more than you might want to. Your immune system is basically built in your sleep.
Yes, lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.
If you can find a way to get more sleep, now is a really good time to prioritize your sleep. Don’t miss sleep to work out. Many mamas make the mistake of getting up early, after just a few hours of sleeping, to get that workout in. Yes, I LOVE a good workout, and normally I am okay with missing a few hours for it, but in the season of an intense pandemic, our immune systems come first.
If you eat a better diet, take your vitamins, and get your sleep, you can keep both you and your baby healthy during this scary season of infection and unknown. Let’s do our best to keep mothers and babies out of hospital beds, and safe and healthy at home.
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