I stumbled upon this article (http://www.breastfeedingonline.com/HowBreastmilkProtectsNewborns.pdf) while trying to research which immunoglobulins are in breastmilk. Well it turns out all five are (M A G E and D shown as IgM etc, I always remembered Mag Ed in micro classes). Anyway, since our son had a blood test for allergies they said he had elevated IgA, well it turns out this is the main antibody they get from breast milk. Overall it is a good thing but can be related to allergies/asthma if it overreacts. I am getting off track. I just wanted to post this article for anyone who wanted a little background on the immune system protection offered by breast milk for their own interest or as proof to anyone giving them grief about breastfeeding.
Basically this article covers things like helpful bacteria in the milk delivered to the infant's digestive system, immunoglobulins, and particles that can adhere to bacteria and viruses and eliminate them and even damage the chicken pox virus. This author even says that there are immune system cells (lymphocytes) that grow in the presence of E. coli and act differently than the lymphocytes in blood. Also he says that certain breast milk hormones and proteins help to close up the leaky digestive system in infants to help it to be impermeable to pathogens (things that try to make your baby sick).
This was a total accident that I found this article but I really enjoyed it and wanted to pass it along in case anyone else is as interested in the science behind breast milk and breast feeding as I am. If I ever were to go to Medical School I would do research on the chemistry and biology behind this process. I am especially curious about the letdown reflex and how many times it triggers when. I am sure I am getting into blah blah blah mode so I will stop. I hope you enjoy this article.
Oh and by the way, yes I am still nursing my 21 month old son and I think this helps keep him from getting sick very often. I have to admit I almost CAN NOT fall asleep without him nursing, it is crazy. Something about the hormones or my body relaxing and knowing he is right there safe. I can't stand when people I barely know ask how old he is and how long I am going to nurse him for like it is time because they think it is time to wean. You can just tell when that is what they are getting at compared to the people who think it is great and really understand the bond and health benefits. I always pull out my "go to" line "Well, the World Health Organization recommends nursing until age 2" and of course "He's allergic to cow's milk anyway so he needs something." I don't know why I feel like I have to make that excuse. It really is no one else's darn business but if they are going to ask I am going to really let them know what I think. I plan on nursing our son until he is done with it or I just can't really do it anymore. I figure around 2 1/2 or 3 probably. I do think there is a limit. I am not going to nurse him into first grade or anything so everyone can just relax but I don't feel this is something I should give up for anyone else but our own reasons.
(This was not a sponsored post. I own no rights to the linked article so contact that author if you are interested in it. The image is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Milk_glass.jpg and was taken by Stefan Kuhn shared under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.)