Antibodies in Breast Milk

grayscale photo of woman carrying a baby

Breast milk is packed with antibodies that fight diseases and viruses as well protect the baby from short and long-term health problems.

Even though breast milk is known for being nutritionally-perfect, perhaps the most amazing characteristic about breast milk is its ability to fight off and protect babies from illness. In fact, some have said that the antibodies in breast milk make it more like human blood since they both contain white blood cells.

Here are just a few of the many antibodies contained in human breast milk and what they do to mobilize the baby’s immune system:

Antibodies – White blood cells

  1. B lymphocytes – forms antibodies that target specific microbes
  2. Macrophages – destroy microbes in baby’s stomach
  3. Neutrophils – may act to ingest bacteria in baby’s digestive system
  4. T lymphocytes – kills infected cells and send out messages to mobilize other defenses; also produce compounds that activate baby’s immune system

Antibodies – Other Molecules

  1. Antibodies of secretory IgA class – bind to harmful cells in baby’s digestive system to prevent them from passing through the walls of the gut into the tissues of the baby’s body
  2. Bifidus Factor – increases growth of Lactobacillus bifidus – which is a good bacteria
  3. Fatty Acids – destroys cell membranes around harmful cells to kill them
  4. Lactoferrin – Binds to iron which prevents harmful bacteria from using the iron to grow
  5. Mucins – attaches to bacteria and viruses to prevent them from clinging to mucousal tissues
  6. Oligosaccharides – adheres to bacteria and other harmful cells to prevent them from attaching to mucosal surfaces.

What we have in breast milk antibodies is a spectacular immune system enhancer for our babies! Remember even if you return to work, your baby can still benefit from your pumped breast milk in order to get all of the superior nutrition as well as antibodies. Formula cannot match it.

Be sure to check out more information about how breastfeeding is healthy for mothers too!

To review the complete list of breastfeeding articles, click here.