Supporting an Infant’s immune system during the ‘development and training’ phase of their life is important at ALL times of year – but especially in winter.
Like most of us, infants are more susceptible to colds, flu, and other infections in Winter – this has a lot to do with the fact that viruses transmit more readily indoors (due to close contact and less fresh air/ventilation), along with the fact that the colder and dryer air can contribute to reduced resistance and compromised immunity.
Fortunately, there are many things we can do to support an infant’s immune system during winter;
When babies are born, most of their immune system comes from mum’s breastmilk. As they grow and develop, bubs microbiome and diet become more influential over the immune system – so breastfeed if you can – for as long as you can. Breastfeeding is the best thing to support and protect the immune system as it develops.
Eat and then Give a Nutrient Dense, Plant Food Rich Diet
When you’re breastfeeding, you should eat the ‘good’ food. And once you start feeding baby, the same applies.
Food is important for energy, growth, and development – but it’s not just ‘fuel’, nutrients are also ‘information’ that sends messages to the cells in the body in order to get them working optimally.
Incorporating a diversity of, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices are my top 6 ways to easily increase nutrient density in your and bub’s diet. When beginning solids with infants (at around 6 months) use small serves, purees, nut/seed butter and pastes mixed in with fruit and veg until they’re old enough to chew.
Incorporate immune supporting ‘functional foods’ – I LOVE functional foods, which is why in the clinic I do lots of education around healthy whole foods and immune supporting foods. My favourites are:
- Garlic, ginger & onions – natures ‘super foods’ – garlic actually works like a ‘selective antibiotic’ and kills infection causing bugs
- Herbs & Spices – most of our medicines are made from plants (!), so including more of them in your diet is essentially like ‘taking natural medicine’
- Bone broth pastes or powders – a super nutrient dense food containing collagen which ‘feeds cells’ so you’re feeding from the ground up
Citrus & berries
- Medicinal mushrooms – these guys are ‘the bomb’ for the immune system – shitake, coryceps, reishi, turkey tail etc – and you can get them in easy to add to food drop doses or powders – just make sure to get good quality and even organic if you can.
- Fermented foods – provide the ‘good bugs’ in a food form – not as specific as supplemental probiotics, but a great addition to a healthy whole food diet
Create healthy sleep habits
Even though we know sleep is so important, it can be tricky. I’m certainly no expert, but thankfully there are great resources and experts out there to help you if your bubs/infants/kids are finding sleeping a challenge. My preference is a ‘holistic sleep consultant’. Google or ask around in your area for recommendations.
Keep fluids up
Plenty of breast milk if breastfeeding, filtered water once they’re on solids, and fortified formulas (once again, organic if you can)
Supplement with a good quality probiotic
Good quality probiotics have many benefits – but are particularly helpful to support the infant immune system. As previously mentioned, the infant immune system is still developing and getting used to the world – learning how to make ‘appropriate responses’ when it’s protecting the body. Things like eczema, asthma, allergies, recurring infections & food intolerances are signs that the developing immune system is struggling.