All parents want the best for their new baby. Good nutrition allows parents to give their baby a healthy head start.
Often, parents don't think about how they can influence their infant's health, including their infant's immune system development through nutrition. Below are a few tips for parents to help support the development of an infant's immune system during pregnancy and the first year.
* During pregnancy: A mom should remember that what she eats affects her child before and after birth. A good source of vitamins and minerals and proper hydration will help a mom-to-be stay healthy.
To support an infant's immune system development, experts recommend that pregnant women eat protein-rich foods such as soy, lean meats and legumes and foods rich in antioxidants like broccoli, red potatoes and blueberries.
* The first year: Before birth, a developing baby receives antibodies from its mother. Maternal antibodies provide initial immune protection to the developing infant but rapidly decline after birth. A baby begins to develop its own antibodies as the mothers begin to wear off.
One reason why breastfeeding is recommended for at least the first year of life is that a mother's breast milk is the only way she can pass immune-protecting antibodies to her infant after birth.
"These antibodies help keep an infant healthy," said Bridget Swinney, dietitian, mother of two and author of "Healthy Food for Healthy Kids: A Practical and Tasty Guide to Your Child's Nutrition." "But if a mom chooses to feed infant formula or supplement, she should find an iron-fortified infant formula similar to breast milk, like Hipp combiotik milk formula.