[Editor's Note: Welcome to #itsscience, where we break down the science behind the hard stuff that keeps you up at night—and the beautiful moments that leave you breathless.

As Motherly's Contributing Editor, Anne-Marie Gambelin is a Founding Team member, working on special projects, writing science features and Motherly essays. She launches our new column to provide evidence-based explanations that give you the why behind the mysteries of motherhood.]

The advantages of breastfeeding have been well-documented throughout the years—mamas know that breast milk can transfer antibodies to their baby, providing protection against infection, and that drinking mama's milk is one of the best ways to prevent illness in the first two years of life.


We've believed that this protection ended when breastfeeding ended. But new research has shown that the transfer of immunity might extend beyond the duration of breastfeeding, possibly even for life.

An international team of scientists, led by researchers at the University of Cape Town, found that infant mice that were breastfed by a mother with a worm infection before getting pregnant acquired lifelong protection against the disease. Historically, it's been thought that immunity was transferred by a mother's antibodies, but this research demonstrates that immunity could be passed on to infants by the transfer of immune cells through breast milk, completely independent of antibodies.

So what does this mean?

Unlike antibodies, which are made of proteins and used by the immune system to neutralize bacteria and viruses, immune cells patrol for problems by circulating in the bloodstream. They also divide and so remain ever-present—meaning they can remain in baby's body for years to come.

Scientists now think that maternal exposure to pathogens prior to pregnancy can influence infant health and permanently alter offspring immunity by programming their immune system. In the future, this could lead to the design of new vaccines that will be able to be given to a mother to transfer long-term immunity to her children through breast milk.

Bottom line: Breast milk is magical in even more ways than we know.

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Motherhood is a practice in learning, growing and loving more than you ever thought possible. Even as a "veteran" mama of four young sons and one newly adopted teenager, Jalyssa Richardson enthusiastically adapts to whatever any given day has in store—a skill she says she's refined through the years.

Here's what just one day in her life looks like:

Jalyssa says she learned to embrace agility throughout her motherhood journey. Here's more from this incredible mama of five boys.

What is the most challenging part of your day as a mom of five?

Time management! I want to meet each of the boys' individual needs—plus show up for myself—but I often feel like someone gets overlooked.

What's the best part of being a mom of five?

The little moments of love. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the smiles... they all serve as little reminders that I am blessed and I'm doing okay.

Are there misconceptions about raising boys?

There are so many misconceptions about raising boys. I think the biggest one is that boys don't have many emotions and they're just so active all the time. My boys display many emotions and they also love to be sweet and cuddly a lot of the time.

What do you think would surprise people the most about being a mom of five?

How much I enjoy it. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was pregnant with my first. My desire only grew and the numbers did! I am surprised with every single baby as my capacity to love and nurture grows. It's incredible.

How do you create balance and make time for yourself?

Balance for me looks like intentional planning and scheduling because I never want my boys to feel like they aren't my first priority, but it is extremely difficult. What I try to do is not fit it all into one day. I have work days because motherhood is my first priority. I fit in segments of self-care after the kids' bedtime so I don't grow weary.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from motherhood?

I have learned that sacrifice is actually beautiful. I was terrified of the selflessness motherhood would require, but I've grown so much through the sacrifice. There is nothing better than living for something bigger than myself.

When did you first feel like a mom? How has your motherhood evolved?

I first felt like a mom when I was pregnant with my first son and I intentionally chose to change my eating habits so my body could be strong and healthy for him. I didn't have to think twice—I just did what I thought would be best for him. That decision being so effortless made me realize I was made for motherhood.

My perspective has changed with each baby as I've realized motherhood doesn't have to be one-size-fits-all. With my first son, I was a by-the-book mama and it was so stressful. With each baby, I have felt more freedom and it has made motherhood so much more beautiful. I have evolved into the mother that they need, I am perfect for these boys.

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