The immune system is a collection of organs, cells and tissues that work together to protect the body from foreign bodies and potentially harmful organisms. The immune system consists of the gastro-intestinal tract, thymus, spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow, as well as many specialised cells such as those illustrated.
Infants are born with an immature immune system, making them vulnerable during their first few years of life. Most of the immune system lies within the gut, and it is the first line of defence from potentially harmful microorganisms.
Nutrition plays an important role in supporting the immune system development. It is well recognised that breast milk provides the best nutrition for baby's developing immune system.
During pregnancy, your baby's gut is sterile and is protected thanks to basic defences like the skin, placenta, amniotic sac and fluid and the supply of your own antibodies which travel across the placenta. This is known as 'passive' immunity. During a natural delivery, your baby's journey through the birth canal exposes it to your bacteria which colonises its gut to help support the development of your baby's immune system.
If you have a caesarean section, the first bacteria that your baby has contact with comes from the hospital environment rather than the birth canal and differences have been found to exist in the gut flora of babies born by caesarean section.
Whether your baby is born naturally or by caesarean, nutritionally supporting their digestive and immune system is important for their growth and development.