Monday, April 30, 2007

Immunity: Back up for grabs

One of the things I miss most about nursing my son is the whole “immunity thing”. While I was breastfeeding, he didn’t get sick once. If my husband or I got a cold, my son would maybe get a little bit of the sniffles for a day, but he would quickly bounce back while we continued to suffer. Despite the fact that I was staying home with him, we certainly weren’t living in a bubble – besides the normal rounds of playdates and such, my son and I were traveling quite a bit via airplanes. Furthermore, my husband was traveling twice as much. So yeah, my kid may not have been in daycare, but he has been exposed to plenty of germs.

I think one of the greatest misconceptions about breastfeeding and immunity is that much of the literature surrounding breastfeeding leads new mothers to think that breastfeeding is a Get Out of Jail Free card when it comes to illness. Of course, nursing your baby goes a long way in protecting your child, but it doesn’t mean your child will never, ever get sick. Particularly, it is very possible your child will get sick if he/she is going to a place where he/she will be exposed to germs that you yourself are not exposed to. For example, I’ll be curious as to how often my daughter ends up getting sick because my son is trotting off to nursery school this fall and will surely be “contributing” lots of fun stuff to our house besides colorful artwork.

I’ve heard many working mothers bitterly complain about the fact that their child is still getting sick even though they are breastfeeding. I would caution a breastfeeding mother from giving up because while you are still nursing, your child will at least get sick less often. And that still counts for something, right?

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