Why Mothers Kiss Their Babies

When a baby is born, new parents usually engage in what are called “claiming behaviors.” They count the babies fingers and toes, make sure all the parts are there. Mother’s will run their fingers through babies hair, smell their baby’s smell, and kiss their babies. These behaviors help parents identify their new baby and assist with bonding.

However, there is another purpose to these behaviors. “When a mother kisses her baby, she ‘samples’ those pathogens that are on the baby’s face – the ones the baby is about to ingest. These samples are taken up by the mother’s secondary lymphoid organs (e.g., her tonsils), and memory B cells specific for those pathogens are reactivated. These B cells then traffic to the mother’s breasts where they produce a ton of antibodies – the very antibodies the baby needs for protection!” (Page 81, 2019, How the Immune System Works, Sixth Edition, by Lauren Sompayrac. Hoboken, NJ: John Riley & Sons, Inc. )

Because babies have very immature immune systems, it is very important that they get these antibodies, particularly Immunoglobulin A (IgA).

A history of breastfeeding was associated with a reduction in the risk of acute otitis media, non-specific gastroenteritis, severe lower respiratory tract infections, atopic dermatitis, asthma (young children), obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, according to Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries, Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep), 2007 Apr;(153):1-186

So mother’s, keep on kissing those babies!

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