When considering immunity in babies, the main mechanism that supports their undeveloped immune system is the transfer of antibodies from mother to baby via breastfeeding.

Case #1: both baby and mother got sick with a virus; the mother then produces large amounts of antibodies that are passed to her baby via breastfeeding.

But what if the mother (for some reason) does not get sick while the baby does?

Case #2: just the baby got sick.

What are the possible scenarios for supporting the baby's immune system in that case? It looks like the number of relevant antibodies is low in the mother.

Another mechanism could be envisioned, namely, the baby transfers antigens to the mother when breastfeeding, which stimulates the mother to produce antibodies and pass them back to the baby. Is this mechanism real? Is it efficient in any sense as compared to Case #1?

(scientific references would be appreciated)

  • $\begingroup$ Are you suggesting that in case#2 that the mother has not been exposed to the babies' pathogen? (i.e. is the baby isolated from the mother, more-or-less precluding breastfeeding) Or are you suggesting that the baby has been injected with some sort of antigen for which there is no infectious disease present? $\endgroup$ Feb 8, 2022 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ @ARogueAnt. - I believe the OP is asking, what if baby was exposed to the pathogen but mother was not? (Say, baby went to visit grandmother, gets virus from visiting cousin. Baby's infection would precede mother's, if mother did catch baby's virus.) It's a reasonable hypothesis, no "isolation" or "injection" necessary. $\endgroup$ Feb 8, 2022 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ To the OP: You say, "When considering immunity in babies, the main mechanism that supports their undeveloped immune system..." Can you support that the child's immune system is "undeveloped", since your question hinges on this? Please provide support in an edit to your question. $\endgroup$ Feb 8, 2022 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse is it important whether the baby's immune system is developed or not for this question? I'm only asking about the possibility for the mother to do the dirty job of making antibodies while not being sick herself. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2022 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ If that's what you're asking, then edit your question too include that precise request. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2022 at 18:51


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