, ,

Question continued: A two week old well baby is quite vulnerable to exposure to numerous contagions, and is certainly not old enough to receive vaccines which could protect her from contracting certain diseases.

With the increasingly prevalent re-emergence of once irradicated diseases such as polio, measles, whooping cough etc, would you feel nervous about taking her to her first well baby check-up just to check her weight and autonomic functions, more or less?

She could easily be exposed to measles, for example, because some poor 7 year old whose friend’s mother chose not to vaccinate, (however, everyone is asymptomatic so far).

Would it make that much of a difference if your baby’s check-up was delayed another two weeks? Would that help?

Answer by Tirumalai Kamala:

I would not feel nervous about taking a two week old baby for a wellness check-up and there are two main reasons.

The first reason? This two week old has already accomplished loads immunologically all by herself. She has successfully incorporated billions of microbes in and on her body. While we develop practically free of microbes in our mother’s uterus, we are born into a microbial world which colonizes us immediately upon birth. We take not just our first breath at birth but also a new tissue, these microbes that settle and colonize not just our skin and GI tract, but also our respiratory, nasopharyngeal and urogenital mucosae. After all, we live in a microbial, not a sterile, world. A newborn at two weeks of age has already successfully, invisibly and quietly accepted and incorporated billions of microbes into her body. And this process has been happening to every human baby through evolutionary time, generation after generation, through war and famine, through epidemics and industrialization and all the rest of the monumental changes that we, the human species, have gone through since we came into the picture. Biologically, immunologically, a newborn is manifestly not a helpless weakling. Rather the scale of accomplishment embodied by post-birth microbial colonization is nothing short of Herculean, all the more astounding because it is so quiet, so invisible, it even escapes our notice as if it were something prosaic when it is just the opposite.

The second reason? Passive immunity. We acquire a good chunk of our mother’s immunological past already in the womb, in the form of antibodies to various disease-causing microbes and vaccines  our mother has encountered thus far, encountered and successfully countered. Thus, our mother gives us not just the gift of life, but through passive immunity the gift of some early-life immunity as well. Babies who breast-feed get even more of this gift through breast-milk IgA antibodies.Transplacental Transfer of Macromolecules: Proving the Efficiency of Placental Transfer of Maternal Measles Antibodies in Mother: Infant Pairsis just one of the latest in a long line of scientific studies that show how efficiently protective anti-measles antibodies pass through from mother to baby through the placenta. Maternally-acquired anti-measles antibodies can typically protect a newborn child from measles the first few months post-birth. Key caveat? The mother in question should have been exposed to measles or the measles vaccine to make these anti-measles antibodies in the first place. If this two week-old’s mother either had had measles or the measles vaccine, this baby should have sufficient protective anti-measles antibodies in her blood circulation to protect her from measles for at least the first few months of life.

If your week-old newborn, a “well baby,” is scheduled for the first follow-up with the pediatrician a week from now, should you be concer…