Human breast milk immunology: a review

Int J Fertil Womens Med. 2006 Sep-Oct;51(5):208-17.


Breast feeding has been shown to enhance the development of the immune system of the newborn as well as provide protection against enteric and respiratory infections. It has been suggested that implementation of breast feeding programs has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide. Human milk is a bodily fluid which, apart from being an excellent nutritional source for the growing infant, also contains a variety of immune components such as antibodies, growth factors, cytokines, antimicrobial compounds, and specific immune cells. These help to support the immature immune system of the newborn baby, and protect it against infectious risks during the postnatal period while its own immune system matures. This article reviews some of the factors in human breast milk that give it these important properties.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control*
  • Immune System / immunology*
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired*
  • Immunity, Mucosal / immunology
  • Infant
  • Infant Food
  • Infant Welfare
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Milk, Human / immunology*