Many children this week will be returning to school with younger siblings returning to nurseries and playgroups. With winter approaching parents have been asking how to help boost their baby’s health and improve their baby’s immune systems so we have put together a guide together.
How can we boost babies immune systems?
A healthy and varied diet is extremely important for growing robust and happy babies – the right food choices help to nourish their brain cells, immunity and gut microbiome.
Introducing babies to a new food ingredient every week is a great rule of thumb for making sure they get a wide variety of fruits, veggies, herbs, spices, pulses, nuts, seeds, poultry, meat and fish. All of which contain micronutrients including vitamins, minerals and fatty acids - but which ones play a role in building a baby’s healthy immune system?
1. Infection-fighting iron
Your baby needs iron to transport oxygen around their body to help fight infection. The store of iron they are born with only lasts six months, and as their bodies can’t make iron, they need to get some from food every day. If you can, give them iron in every meal – add a tablespoon of red meat or plant-based option such as pulses and chickpeas: try mashing a tablespoon to make hummus, and serve with red pepper, as the vitamin C will help the iron be absorbed.
2. Antibody-building vitamin A
Vitamin A helps your baby’s body build infection-fighting antibodies and white blood cells to attack invading germs. Orange coloured fruit and vegetables, such as carrots and satsumas, are rich in it, or a toddler’s entire daily allowance can be found in just a third of a sweet potato for example.
3. Cell-protecting vitamin C
Vitamin C is needed by white blood cells to fight infection as it protects cells and helps the healing process. Peppers, oranges and kiwi fruit pack a good vitamin C hit, or you could try making a fruit salad with strawberries and kiwis.
4. Bacteria-booster probiotics
Probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria to your baby’s bowel and stomach, by balancing out the bad bacteria, they’ll boost the development of the immune system. Natural yoghurt contains plenty of probiotics, so offer a teaspoonful every day, we find simply adding it to baby’s purees is a simple and effective.
5. Wound-repairing, cell-building zinc
To create new cells and enzymes needed to support a baby’s immune system and heal wounds, your baby needs zinc. Their bodies can’t store this nutrient, so it’s important to include plenty in their diet. Animal sources such as meat, eggs and dairy products contain more zinc than plants-based foods.
6. Healing vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 supports your baby’s immune system by creating antibodies and helping red blood cells transport oxygen to aid the healing process. Good sources include wholemeal bread and pasta, and non-citrus fruit such as bananas.
7. Anti-inflammatory omega 3
The anti-inflammatory properties of omega 3 essential fatty acids will help your baby fight off illness. Oily fish contains high amounts, and salmon is the probably the most baby-friendly option if you cook in rapeseed oil too this is also a good source of omega 3
What are the other top tips for shielding a baby’s health?
Keeping Warm - There is research that suggests being physically cold makes you more likely to catch a bug, as it lowers your immunity. ‘Being cold stresses a child’s immune system, making her more susceptible to illness,’ says Angela Chalmers, Boots pharmacist. ‘Layer her up with long-sleeved T-shirts, fleeces, hats and scarves. It’s better to take off layers as needed, rather than putting her in one big coat that can cause her to overheat when she crawls around.’
Fresh Air & Vitamin D - It’s important your baby gets plenty of fresh air. Vitamin D is a crucial bone-building, immune-boosting vitamin, which comes mainly from exposure to the sun. Even in winter, your child gets a little bit of sun whenever they step outside in daylight – 20 minutes is enough. Fresh air also clears out lungs.
Hydration - is as important in winter as in summer. Water helps our kidneys to flush out toxins, so it’s vital for fighting illness. In addition, when your baby has a cold, her mucus will be drier and thicker. Drinking plenty of water will help to flush it, along with any other infections, from the body.
Hand washing/wiping – Nothing reduces your baby’s odds of getting ill as much as hand washing, especially once she’s mobile and picking up more germs.
With younger babies, wipe their hands after you’ve changed them, and keep toys clean. Until your tot is mobile, she’s more likely to catch germs from shared toys than from physical contact with other children.
Nap time/sleep - As well as making babies cranky, lack of sleep leaves them more prone to infection. If you haven’t done so already, establish a bed and naptime routine. A recent study at University College London found children who had regular bedtimes slept more soundly.