Nothing worries parents more than their little one falling prey to infections and diseases especially with the onset of monsoon. A major reason for frequent illness in kids is a weak immune system. Boosting baby immunity can go a long way in helping your baby live a healthy life.
A child’s immunity starts to build up during the last 3 months of pregnancy. During this period, antibodies are passed from the mother to the unborn baby through the placenta. These antibodies are the weapons that the body uses to fight various bacteria and germs. So, if the mother has a strong immune system, there are high chances that the child has high immunity too.
This immunity is called passive immunity because it doesn’t develop in the baby’s body itself but is acquired from the mother. This baby immunity does not last for long and gradually starts decreasing after the first few weeks/months. After this, babies are more susceptible to diseases and infections because their immunity is still developing. This is when parents can make an extra effort to boost their child’s immunity.
Research shows that breastfeeding is an easy and most effective way of increasing baby immunity. Breastmilk has various antibodies that help maintain passive immunity for longer. The thick yellow milk (colostrum) produced in the first few days of birth is particularly rich in antioxidants. Learn more about colostrum feeding here.
Let’s look at some other methods to boost baby immunity.
Get them vaccinated
All diseases like measles and polio cannot be kept at bay with breast milk. To prevent such life-threatening diseases, you need to vaccinate your baby.
Healthy and organic baby food is key for a strong immune system. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables during stage-1 of diet when you’re introducing solid foods to your baby. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and fenugreek (methi) are extremely rich in antioxidants, iron, zinc, and folic acid. Mushrooms are rich in zinc, an immunity-boosting mineral.
Broccoli contains essential vitamins (A, C, and E) and is rich in antioxidants. Puree it with roasted garlic and feed this tasty mixture to your kid.
Oranges, strawberries, and blueberries are rich in Vitamin C, an essential phyto-nutrient, that is proven to enhance immunity.
Try to include five portions of fruits and vegetables every day, preferably organic produce. This will ensure that the bulk of their diet is chemical-free.
Hit the snooze button
Studies have shown a strong co-relation between sleep and immunity. Sleep deprivation can make your baby more prone to infections and diseases. An infant needs around 16-18 hours of sleep every night. So, make sure your baby gets enough sleep by taking naps during the day and a long, peaceful sleep at night which will ultimately increase his/her immunity.
Hygiene plays a vital role in keeping germs, infections, and diseases away. Inculcate good habits in kids by teaching them to regularly wash their hands with soap (especially before meals).
Make sure you clean their hands and feet after they’ve played outside, handled pets, and used the bathroom. Carry wet wipes and sanitizers wherever you go; use them before and after every meal. Keep the items that they use daily (toys, toothbrushes) clean and germ-free. Ensure that the floors and other surfaces they come in contact with are clean.
Along with fruits and vegetables, there are other foods that can help increase kids’ immunity.
Garlic and ginger are condiments that boost immunity. Try and incorporate them in vegetables, lentils, etc. in the cooked form.
Yogurt is another powerful immunity-raising food and can be easily fed to kids at stage 1 of diet. Try and stick to non-flavoured, natural, and organic yogurt. As long as your child tolerates dairy well, incorporate yoghurt (with or without sugar and/or fruits) in their diet.
If you are a non-vegetarian, feeding bone broth is a good option available to you! It helps develop immunity and bones. Prepare it using chicken, mutton, or fish.
Get enough physical activity each day
Regular physical activity is vital to prevent diseases and infections; this applies to kids as well! Give your infant enough space to run around and do activities like swimming, sports that they like and are able to do. Take them to the park/playground and let them get an hour’s play time every day.
Kids who get enough physical exercise are less likely to fall ill and are more resistant to infections like cold, cough, and flu.
Gut it – Improve your baby’s gut health with whole grains
Keeping your kid’s gut healthy is another efficient way of boosting his/her immunity and keeping germs from wreaking havoc on their immune system.
There are trillions of good and bad bacteria present in our gastrointestinal tract (gut). The good bacteria prevent diseases by boosting immunity, while the bad ones cause infections and diseases. Having a healthy gut means having a balance between good and bad bacteria.
Apart from the above-mentioned ways (breast feeding, eating organic baby food, playing outside), whole grains also help in achieving and maintaining a healthy gut. Read more on how whole grains improve gut health here.
Born with a silver spoon
Silver is an oligodynamic metal. A study conducted in Nepal shows that using water containers made of metals like silver, brass, and copper decrease the bacteria in the water. This is the logic behind the age-old practice of feeding kids with utensils (spoon, glass, plate) made of silver. Silver’s bacteria-killing properties make it ideal for purifying water, milk, and other foods by keeping viruses and various bacteria away.
Our elders often advise us to eat one Tulsi leaf every day. While most of us would have thought that this practice is steeped in religion, there is a health reason behind it.
Tulsi or holy basil is strongly recommended in Ayurveda for curing cold and cough and for preventing common cold and infections. Ask your child to wash and eat 3-5 leaves of tulsi every morning. This is an easy way to keep diseases at bay.
For little babies, Tulsi can be washed thoroughly and ground along with baby food.
Almonds contain Vitamin E and boost immunity. Give your child 5-6 almonds every day, in any form. Almond milk is a good option for lactose-intolerant kids and infants who can’t chew yet. Almond powder is another excellent way to enrich your baby porridge.
No sugar please
Sugar decreases immunity, so avoid artificial sweeteners in your kid’s food; all they do is give calories and cause various health issues like obesity and diabetes.
Sugar intake reduces the number of while blood cells in the body which are responsible for fighting any infection that enters the body. Sugar is also one of those inflammation triggers, thus restricting sugar can help increase the baby’s immunity.
Take care but do not over fuss
Childhood is a time when kids are prone to several illnesses because their little bodies are still getting used to the world around them. Their immunity is still developing, and they tend to taste everything during their teething stage, which leads to several health issues.
So, while it’s important to keep their food and environment as germ-free as possible, it’s also important to be calm and at ease about it. Let your child play outside, explore the world around him/her and get dirty and messy. This is part of building immunity too!
Plus, a fussy parent is more likely to raise a fussy child. So, let them enjoy childhood in a carefree way while keeping a watchful eye.