Tips to boost your baby's immune system
Help your baby’s sensitive immune system keep her healthy. Midwife Philippa Hime provides advice on keeping the germs at bay this season.
Right from the beginning, parents try their utmost to keep their babies healthy and protect them from germs. It is in the first year of life that it is hardest to protect them. Baby’s first sniffle is not a milestone we look forward to, but unfortunately it will happen at some point. Fortunately, there are ways to help keep the germs at bay and that little body fighting strong:
1. Breast is best.
Breastmilk is jam-packed with vital antibodies that help your baby develop a well-rounded immune system. Breastmilk itself has germ-fighting cells that help detect and destroy any nasty bugs that come its way. Its Mother Nature’s way of providing protection and it is on tap 24/7.
2. Give them the good stuff.
When you introduce solids to your little one, include lots of fresh fruit and veggies in her meals. The vitamins these food items contain will boost her immune system, especially foods high in vitamin C, like strawberries. It’s also a good idea to include a probiotic for infants in your baby’s daily diet. You can find this at most pharmacies. Good gut health has been proven to boost the immune system and is one of the first lines of defence against illness.
3. Keep it clean.
It is important to maintain good basic hygiene with your baby – the younger they are, the more important this is. So, wash your hands after every nappy change and before any feed, and sterilise any objects that baby puts in her mouth (such as dummies). If you’re not comfortable with people holding your newborn, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell them no. Also discourage people from kissing your tiny baby, especially on the mouth. Try to limit contact with others who are unwell, particularly children.
4. Count on sleep.
Babies, especially younger babies, need a great deal of sleep in a 24-hour period. Make sure your little one gets enough of this. After all, newborns should only be awake for about 45 minutes at a time. Babies that don’t get enough sleep can be more susceptible to illness. Follow age-appropriate awake times for your little one – if you’re not sure, chat to your clinic sister for advice.
5. Avoid antibiotics.
If possible avoid giving unnecessary treatment to your baby especially in the first year. With some infections an antibiotic is unavoidable, but it is important to remember that they only help with bacterial infections. Most sniffles are caused by viral infections on which antibiotics have no effect.
Despite all these precautions your little one can still get sick. If your baby develops a fever (a temperature of 38°C or higher), is unusually lethargic, or won’t feed, take him to the doctor. Trust your instincts and don’t worry about making a fuss over nothing – it’s always better to be sure when it comes to your baby’s health.