It's difficult being a parent, essentially because it deals with seeing your child sick and most of the times when you really can't do much about it. Getting sick and recovering is a normal physiological phenomena which every individual goes through and that is how we grow up. But to see our young ones sick is a dilemma every parent has to go through. We cannot make our kids completely free of disease but we can do something which is in our hands i.e. to build their immune system. What really is an immune system you wonder? It's a complex system in our body which distinguishes between anything foreign in our body and fights against it. Like all other organs in a baby's body, the immune system too is not fully developed at birth. It's a continuous process for them where their immune system works constantly day after day to protect them from pathogens which lingers around them in the environment. We know that newborn's immune system is not as strong as that of an adult. It would be reassuringto know that even then they are well protected against many susceptible diseases because the nature has created a perfect balance by providing immunity to the new-borns through the mother So, through this article, I would be talking about the two bits that I have to share that every parent can do to enhance their child's inbuilt defense mechanism. Babies are born with a delicate immune system and hence we often hear phrases like wash hands often, sanitize everything that is to be used for the baby because we do not want to take any risk of the little one falling ill. Yet, falling sick is a part and parcel of life but we can always be better equipped in order to have such instances very less. A baby's immune system is supported in many ways in infancy. The four main pillars for boosting immunity are; 1. Passive Immunity through Placenta - During the last trimester of pregnancy, antibodies are passed by the mother to the baby via Placenta. Antibodies are large proteins which protects against viruses’ and bacteria. This is called maternal passive immunity because the baby does not make antibodies on his own but receives from the mother. The antibodies that the baby receives also largely depends on the kinds of pathogens the mother has been exposed to in her lifetime. If a mother has had mumps or measles, chicken pox, she will pass on the antibodies to the baby too which will protect the baby through these diseases initially until the baby develops his own immunity. Premature babies are often more susceptible to the diseases reason being that they miss out on the crucial stage of last few weeks in the womb and hence are often low in antibodies. Hence it is important to have the plan B ready for them. Plan B stands for Breastfeeding. 2. Antibodies from breast milk - I remember when I delivered, the nurse came to ask for milk and since my baby was not with me (he was in NICU), i had to send milk. The very first time I attempted to express milk, I could only manage two drops of yellow liquid. I was not sure then what it was but what amused me was the nurse made sure that those two drops reaches my baby. Things are much clear now and I guess i hold more knowledge than i had before. The thick yellow liquid, often referred as golden liquid is called as colostrum and it is super rich in antibodies. It is low in fat and high in carbohydrates, proteins and antibodies which makes a perfect first food for the baby. It is also easier to digest and has a laxative effect which helps the baby to pass stools through which the excess amount of bilirubin is pushed out thus preventing the new-born from jaundice. Colostrum is not only a perfect healthy food but a powerhouse of antibodies against many viruses and bacteria. It has a special role to play in baby's gastrointestinal tract. A new-borns intestines are very permeable. Colostrum helps building a wall and act as a barrier against foreign substances and also prevents sensitizing the baby to the foods that the mother has eaten. Breastmilk doesn't lose its effectiveness ever. As long as you breastfeed, you will be passing passive Immunity to your child. Breastmilk ignores the friendly bacteria and attacks only the harmful ones. This helps in maintaining a good equilibrium of the baby's gut. Indeed, exclusively breastfed babies are less likely to get infections. 3. Good Nutrition - Good nutrition is the backbone to good immune system. Eating right and healthy goes a long way to ensure protection against the seasonal flus and other diseases too. Proteins are the most important ones. They form a part of the body's defense mechanism. Vitamin A regulates the immune system by keeping skin and tissues healthy. Vitamin C is required to stimulate the production of antibodies and boosting immunity. Vitamin E is an antioxidant and improves immune function. Zinc helps the immune system to work properly and also helps in healing wounds. Other Nutrients such as vitamin b6, iron, folate, prebiotics and probiotics also influence the response of our immune system. 4. Vaccinations - How does vaccination works? Why are vaccination necessary? Vaccines reduces the risk of infection by working alongside with the body's natural defenses to develop immunity against the disease. When bacteria or virus enters our body, it multiplies and results into an infection. Infection is what causes illness. Vaccines helps to develop immunity by imitating those infection. Through vaccines, the same antigens are released in the body to let the body develop immunityagainst them so that the body can recognise it in future and be better prepared to fight them off. Antigens from the vaccines comes from the killed or weakened germs, so they do not cause serious illness. However, vaccines have their own side effects. Mostly they are mild but sometimes things do get little serious. Hence it's best to observe your child carefully post vaccination for any unusual symptoms and see the doctor immediately if need be. Our immune systems have evolved over the years to protect us from various bacteria and viruses. One of the best way to build a child's immune system is to let them be in an environment where they do have exposure to germs and microbes. These days, we all are extra cautious and go a mile forward for a germ free home. But germs aren't that bad really. In fact, keeping a baby in an absolute sterile environment does not let the baby boost its immune system. Cleaning is required, but being over cautious is dangerous in the long run. Babies need to be exposed to various germs in the environment but developing a better defense system. The other significant way how we suppress the already working good immune system is by taking too many medicines. Because we cannot see our child sick, we are quick to opt for antibiotics. Pushing your GP to prescribe an antibiotic for every seasonal flu might not be a great idea. In fact, parents should ask often, are antibiotics really necessary? Illnesses are majorly caused by viruses whereas antibiotics are helpful only in bacterial infection. So make a wise call if that dose of antibiotics is really what you need. However, always consult your doctor before taking any decisions. An overall shift to a healthy lifestyle is the key. Get your baby to park often. Let them soak some vitamin D and get exposed to the environment. Eat well and exercise. Cut down on the sugar. Sugar is not good for anyone. It is known to suppress the immune system and promote the growth of bad bacteria in the gut. Lastly, good hygiene practises should be followed like washing hands frequently, and keeping safe distance from people who are already sick etc. can help in keeping the baby safe. Our Childhood plays a vital role in determining how we are as an adult in all aspects, including our health. Hence it is important to give that right kick start to our babies by breastfeeding, immunization and eating well balanced diet. The less the child falls sick, the merrier the home.