Besides embracing a balanced diet, there are a few other things you should do that are beneficial for your tot’s health and wellbeing.
Dr Elizabeth Tham, an associate consultant with the division of paediatric allergy, immunology and rheumatology, and Dr Chan Poh Chong, head and senior consultant with the division of general ambulatory paediatrics and adolescent medicine, both from the National University Hospital shares some nifty ways to fire up your tot’s immunity.
1) Choose to breastfeed
“Breastfeeding exclusively for the first four to six months provides both child and mother with many health and immunological benefits,” notes Dr Tham. It may even reduce the little one’s risk of developing eczema!
The milk produced early on during pregnancy (yes your body may be producing milk even before kewpie’s arrival) and right after giving birth is rich in colostrum. Colostrum — for some mothers, a pale or clear fluid — is full of antibodies and immunity-boosting components, forming the first vital building blocks of your little one’s immune system.
2) Feed yourself well
As mothers, it is common for us to be extra fussy about the foods we are feeding our tots, often prioritising their nutrition over our own. If you think restricting the consumption of some foods might help prevent allergies, Dr Tham says, “Mothers should not restrict their diets while breastfeeding as doing so does not reduce any risk of allergy in children.” A balanced diet is the way to go!
“Simply exposing your tot to second-smoke can increase the risk of respiratory issues later in life.”
3) Kick the habit of smoking
Besides putting yourself at greater risk of chronic health issues (and mounting bills), Dr Tham says smoking increases the risk of your little one developing wheezing and breathing issues. Also, exposure to second-hand smoke after birth can also result in an increased risk of respiratory issues, too.
4) Play hard and sleep well
Devoting adequate time and space for your tot to explore and move about indoors or out is beneficial for their wellbeing and development, says Dr Chan. It is equally beneficial for them to clock quality shuteye every night.
The rule of thumb should be to keep your living environment at home as stress-free as possible.
5) Don’t pre-empt their allergies
When you begin introducing solid foods gradually when they reach 4 to 6 months of age, don’t forget to include common allergenic foods — egg, dairy, nuts, fish and shellfish — as a part of their diets. According to Dr Tham, NOT doing so will only increase the baby’s risk of developing allergies.
6) Feed them these superfoods
Dr Chan names some foods that are outstanding choices for immunity boosting, while emphasising that an overall balanced diet, which will serve your tot’s immunity well, still stands.
Dr Chan reminds parents to steer clear of overconsuming certain vitamins and minerals — especially iron, zinc and Vitamin E — which are toxic when in excess. Also remember to always prize natural sources of these vitamins and minerals over pills and supplements!
Seeds and nuts
Almonds, pumpkin, sunflower and flaxseeds all contain high amounts of zinc, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids — all of which are crucial for immune cells to function optimally.
Vegetables and fruits
Power up your kid’s white blood cells — the natural killer cells in their immune system — with coloured vegetables and fruits like oranges, papayas, sweet potatoes and carrots. These are rich in beta-carotene, which our bodies automatically convert into vitamin A, and is known to be beneficial for night blindness.
Otherwise, green vegetables like spinach are rich in vitamin A, C, E, zinc, selenium and iron — essential co-ingredients for baby’s immune functions!
“Multi-vitamins are often used as a quick fix for boosting a toddler’s immune system. But care must be taken to ensure parents do not give their children an overdose.”
Choose oily and fatty fish like salmon and mackerel which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, good for moderating the effects of inflammation and blood flow during an infection.
Don’t forget the pro- and prebiotics too. Yoghurt is a rich source of good bacteria for boosting gut and immunity functions!
Dr Chan adds, “Multi-vitamins are often used as a quick fix for boosting a toddler’s immune system. But it should only be used when they are lacking in these vitamins and minerals due to limited diets. Care must be taken to ensure parents do not give their children an overdose.”
“Limited diets” refers to situations where a certain food group is left out of one’s diet due to lifestyle (going vegan) or religious reasons, resulting in the loss of some vital nutrients.
Observe what food groups that are missing from your diet before opting for multi-vitamins — alternate sources can usually be found without reaching for pills.
Dr Elizabeth Tham is an associate consultant with the division of paediatric allergy, immunology and rheumatology and Dr Chan Poh Chong is head and senior consultant with the division of general ambulatory paediatrics and adolescent medicine. Both serve at the National University Hospital.