Baby's immune system

Writer : Dr. P.D. Gupta

Former Director Grade Scientist, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad


In India we are soon expecting Corona's third wave, it is expected that it will this time be more dangerous for children. We all are prepared to fight the third wave. It is necessary to know about the immune system in children.  Babies’ immune systems are not as strong as those of adults. Breastfeeding and vaccinating the baby will help protect them from a serious illness.

Antibodies and nutrients pass from mother to baby through breast milk. Breast feeding helps to boost your baby’s immune system.

What is the immune system?

The immune system is a network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection.

If bacteria, a virus or other foreign substance enters the body, white blood cells identify it and produce antibodies and other responses to the infection. They also ‘remember’ the attack so they can fight it more easily next time.

A baby’s immune system is immature when they are born. It develops throughout life as they are exposed to different germs that can cause disease.

Antibodies are passed from mother to baby through the placenta during the last 3 months of pregnancy. This gives the baby some protection when they are born. The type and amount of antibodies passed to the baby depends on the mother’s own level of immunity.

During birth, bacteria from the mother’s vagina is passed on to the baby. This helps to build the colony of bacteria in the gut that contributes to their immunity. But babies born through C-section do not develop an immune system until 2 years and they are prone to infection easily.

After birth, more antibodies are passed on to the baby in colostrum and in breast milk. But babies’ immune systems are still not as strong as adults’. Premature babies and babies born through operation are at greater risk of infection because their immune systems are even more immature and they haven’t had as many antibodies passed to them from their mothers.

Babies produce their own antibodies every time they are exposed to a virus or germ, but it takes time for this immunity to fully develop.

The passive immunity passed on from the mother at birth also doesn’t last long and will start to decrease in the first few weeks and months after birth.