Breast milk, the baby’s first vaccine, is critical for immunity


Every child should be breastfed right after the birth. Exclusive breastfeeding from birth to 6 months alone, can save about 1.5 million lives each year according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). But millions of newborns are not provided with mother’s milk, within an hour of birth, according to the latest study of UNICEF. ( Infants are deprived  of nutritional, protective and emotional benefits of this wonderful natural act of parenting,

Delay in putting the baby to mother’s breast immediately after delivery, decreases the chances of baby’s survival by 80%. Delicate newborn is exposed to pathogens outside the womb without any protection. Demand and supply mechanism of mother’s milk is also not established, which further reduces the opportunity of exclusive breastfeeding.

Only ~43% of the infants get the breast milk globally. Rest, more than half of the babies get the alternatives like milk formulas, sugar and water and cow’s milk. These substitutes to mother’s milk can somewhat mimic the nutrients provided by it, but are devoid of antibodies, living immune cells and growth factors essential for protecting against infections and diseases.

The Colostrum or first milk produced by a new mother, is full of antibodies which provides passive immunity to the baby against his first interaction of pathogens. Colostrum is a balanced natural diet for infants  containining all the essential nutrients. It is easier to digest with lower amounts of carbohydrates and fats than mature milk. It’s protein concentration is much higher than other forms of milk. It also contains growth factors, which promotes formation of healthy gut in babies. It is the elixir of life which is readily available to every child, regardless of the economic status of the family.

Breastfeeding builds the bond of love and care between the mother and child. It leads to a mutually beneficial relationship, which enhances the life of both mother and the baby. Let’s see how breastfeeding provides long term protection to the baby and mother.

Baby Breastfeeding mother
Ear infectionsDecreased blood loss postpartum
Acute respiratory infectionsReduce risk of unwanted pregnancy due to delayed return to fertility
Gastro-intestinal infections, diarrhoea                                                  Breast cancer
Urine infectionsOvarian cancer
Childhood diabetesAsthma
Eczema (skin diseases)Obesity

According to France Bégin (Senior Advisor, Infant & Young Child Nutrition at UNICEF), “Breastmilk is a baby’s first vaccine, the first and best protection they have against illness and disease.” He also proclaimed that early breastfeeding can definitely avert the large number of deaths of children under five. Statistical analysis by UNICEF shows that majority of women do not get the right help required to initiate the breastfeeding, immediately after birth. Mothers should seek the professional or family help to start their milk supply. Families should  forego the superstitious beliefs and orthodox customs which are against feeding the child with first milk of mothers. Everyone should support a young mother in family,  to start breastfeeding as early as possible.