Baby Sam Update

17 Jan 2007

Sam has fortunately come through his chicken pox infection (at 3 months!) pretty much unscathed. We were worried — the risk of complications of chicken pox in a child so young is relatively high. We had a scare late in his illness where he would occasionally wake up and start screaming for no detectable reason. We rushed him to the pediatrician — they arranged for him to come into a separate exam room via the back door, for reasons of contagion. They found no problems; his lungs were perfectly clear, his sores all healing normally. It seems that he was just getting really, really sick of waking up to find out that he was still covered with itchy sores! But now sores are all healing, and he seems to be in good spirits and gives everyone a big grin! Go, baby Sam!

Followup: this brings up a couple of points. One is that apparently because he is so young and his immune system is not fully developed yet, he may get chicken pox again when he is a little older! That seems so unfair. The other one is the idea that newborn babies receive some immunities from their mothers via nursing. This is often touted as one of the benefits of breastfeeding, but I am not so certain it actually holds up under scrutiny. Can antibodies ingested in breask milk actually survive the digestive process and go on to establish the same antibodies in the newborn? I don’t know. Has the idea ever been subject to serious study? How would one study this? Certainly if newborns had no immunities other than those conferred by nursing, bottle-fed babies would drop like flies when compared to nursing babies. I don’t think that happens, although nursed babies are statistically healthier. But does the transferred-immunity theory actually hold water?

I’m of the belief that using bad science, even to push for objectively good outcomes, is a misuse of science, and ultimately makes people stupider. So I’d like to know the actual facts on this issue, if they can be clearly determined!

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