A lot of people worry about this issue, so I thought I should tackle this here. The most important thing to know is that our body;s defensive abilities lie in the correct structure and function of our immune system. This system consists of several specialised organs including the bone marrow, lymph nodes, spleen, thymus and so on. These structures are all present even in a pre-term baby, but their functioning is not something that is optimal at that time. It is over a period of months inside the mother's uterus and then years in the world outside that the immune system develops into a mature system that can prevent and fight infections and other assaults on our bodies.
A strong immune system that can prevent the child from falling ill depends upon many things. One of these is the maturity of the system itself. As I have said, the more preterm a baby is, the less his/her immune system's development is, so that it makes sense to prevent premature births. The second most important thing is breastfeeding by the mother. This is so important that its significance cannot be underestimated. The milk of the mother is precious at all times, but even more so during the first few days after the baby has delivered. This milk is called COLOSTRUM. It looks yellowish, watery and not at all like the milk we see in bottles and in packs in the supermarket. It is very small in quantity, perhaps about 60-100 ml in all - but it is packed with antibodies and many important ingredients that help the baby to arm up against several kinds of infections right up to the end of the first year of life. We are still learning about the magic of mother's milk, and I won't be the least surprised if we discover that the benefit of mother's milk goes substantially beyond the baby's infancy.
The next most important factor that determines a child's immunity is their diet. A diet that is well-balanced and contains adequate amounts of all the essential food elements goes a long way in keeping the baby or the child fit and fine. Among the various factors in food that are important from the immune system's health point of view are the amounts of micro-nutrients and vitamins in the diet. Such adequacy can only come if the child is given substantial quantities of salad, fruit and dry fruit and protein-rich foods in the diet.
Yet another potent immune-protector is proper hand washing by the child. While hand washing does not actually boost the child's immunity, it helps to prevent a lot of infections that can be spread through our inanimate environment.
And, to end this story, I am going to chip in a few lines on immunisation. This means vaccinating the child against a myriad range of infections. Most such activities take place during the first few years, but periodic immunisations continue throughout a child (and then, young person)'s life.These vaccines provide a mix of active as well as passive immunity against infections of all kinds.