Does breastfeeding confers immunity on nursing mothers?

in Motherhood5 days ago

I mentioned enpassantly in my last post how I have been down with another bout of malaria, the second within a 4 month period. This seems to be a regular occurrence for those of us with the blood genotype AA. Heterozygous individuals are known to possess the heterozygous advantage of malarial resistance.

In other words, AS individuals do not come down with malaria disease as often as we AA do. While they may be restricted when it comes to the choice of who to settle down or make babies with due to their heterozygous condition, they can enjoy being malaria-free far more than those that are homozygous dominant.

My wife also happens to be of blood genotype AA. However, unlike me, she is yet to come down with malaria in more than 2 years now. This malaria-free period happens to coincide with when she is breastfeeding our baby. We live in the same building and sleep in the same room. Both of us also do not sleep under mosquito nets.

Thus, there definitely exists a factor that confers this sort of malarial immunity to my wife. Could it be the fact that she has been breastfeeding?

Benefits of Breastfeeding

The process of nursing babies by breastfeeding them has always been discussed with respect to the advantages it confers on babies and mothers. Breastmilk contains all the necessary nutrients required to nurse a healthy baby. It contains important antibodies that help babies fight off pathogenic infections.

There are overwhelming scientific evidence to suggest that breastfed babies have fewer illnesses than those fed with baby formulas. Breastfeeding also helps increase the bond between nursing mothers and their babies.

On the side exclusive to mothers, breastfeeding helps shed excess weight that might have accumulated during gestation. In addition, it stimulates the uterus to contract and return to its normal shape, resulting in a flat tummy in no time.

Post-partum bleeding is a normal thing for women who just gave birth. It has been reported that aggressive breastfeeding of babies helps in lowering this bleeding. Women who breastfeed their babies are also twice less likely to experience post-partum depression and lower urinary tract infections.

By UNICEF Ukraine from Kyiv, Ukraine - Mothers from conflict-affected Eastern Ukraine on Training on Breastfeeding, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45338131

Nothing on mother's immunity?

There are several benefits accruable to women that breastfeed their babies, some of which have been mentioned above. However, nothing has been mentioned about breastfeeding conferring certain forms of immunity to breastfeeding mothers.

When it comes to breastfeeding and immunity, the attention of the scientific community has been on the baby. The immune system of mothers produces antibodies that help babies to fight off infections. However, very little to none has been researched on what breastfeeding does to the immune system of the mother herself.

One logical conclusion that can be made is that breastfeeding is more likely to weaken the immune systems of breastfeeding mothers rather than strengthen them. This is due to the fact that actively breastfeeding mothers are likely to be more stressed than those that do not breastfeed.

Babies wake up at different intervals during the night to be breastfed. Thus, nursing mothers who breastfeed usually get their sleep disrupted. Unless ample time is set aside during the day to augment the one lost during the night, a sleep disorder may result.

The first thing that suffers when humans are stressed or do not get enough sleep is the immune system.

Final words

There are no available scientific evidence yet to support the hypothesis that breastfeeding confers a certain kind of immunity on breastfeeding mothers. The malarial immunity that my wife seems to be enjoying may or may not be due to the fact that she has been breastfeeding.

I am really yet to ask around if what my wife enjoys is applicable to other breastfeeding mothers that live in malaria-endemic regions of the world. If there are enough anecdotal claims, perhaps this would open up ground for scientific investigation into the phenomenon.

What do you think?

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Good that you came into that conclusion! I was a little bit worried! I think the answer isn't associated to immunity, at least has less probability in that. The Plasmodium protist is carried by Anopheles mosquitoes, even if you guys sleep under the same bed, it is difficult that the same mosquito that transmitted you the protozoa. Even with a high incidence of malaria in your incidence being attacked by a bunch of Anopheles carrying the parasite is possible, but it is rare I guess. In addition to that, you don't stay only at home right? Maybe you were bitten somewhere else? Moreover, you have multiple other mosquitoes that carry other diseases or even no diseases, and of course, you will find other species in your house.
I am from Rio de Janeiro, we faced bad outbreaks of Dengue virus. When I had it, neither my parents or my brother had it, even though we had tons of mosquitos entering and exiting our home. My brother had the disease I guess a couple of years after in another outbreak, and neither of the rest of us had it at that time.
Again, is it possible that there is something unknown by science happening in the breastfeeding mother? Yes , but I think that there are more chances of happening than I cited! There is something else that you don't mention that it can also play to the resistance, maybe your wife is heterozygous for the sickle cell anemia? This also confers resistance to the protozoa.
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The malarial immunity that my wife seems to be enjoying may or may not be due to the fact that she has been breastfeeding

The words above capture my thought about the subject of discourse in this blog. As you already espoused in the blog, scientific investigation into the benefits of breastfeeding as pertaining to the mother's health will be helpful to many.

I've heard of breastfeeding conferring immunity to babies (as you mention), but never the other way around! (as you again mention!)

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Breastfeeding confers immunity to the child yeah that's true. But for preventing malaria in the mother, I doubt. Cos breastfeeding has absolutely nothing to do with the plasmodium parasite. Plasmodium parasite particularly attacks the red blood cells. Again, Malaria is also treated during pregnancy and probably your wife too has malaria but the symptoms are yet to manifest. I don't think breastfeeding has anything to do with it at all.

Nice article by the way. So cute of you to wonder.