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.
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.
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?