Building Blocks Series – Lactoferrin for babies


What is lactoferrin?

Source of lactoferrin

Lactoferrin is an important protein found in breastmilk that is responsible for the development of a baby’s immune system. It is a protein that is produced most abundantly in breast milk (in particular, colostrum, the first milk produced after birth). It is also present in saliva, tears, mucus, and white blood cells,  as a functional part of the immune system. The only food source that contains lactoferrin is cow’s milk; however, the actual amount of lactoferrin is negligible (only 1-5% of the amount found in human breast milk).

What does lactoferrin do?

Lactoferrin protects your baby by stimulating the immune system to block harmful bacteria [1, 2] and viruses [3, 4] from entering their developing cells and tissues. Lactoferrin is also capable of destroying these threats, which prevents and reduces symptoms of disease and inflammation [5-6]. Aside from its own immune properties, lactoferrin has also been shown to increase the number of immune cells [7], proteins and pathways that help fight off infections.

Does lactoferrin kill good bacteria?

Lactoferrin stimulates the growth of good bacteria [8] that are essential for sustained growth and development. This is important as they can fight off bad bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system, reducing symptoms like diarrhea and tummy aches and pains [9-11]. Lactoferrin also plays a pivotal role in protecting the intestinal lining [12], so that nutrients are more readily absorbed.

Is lactoferrin only for infants?

Lactoferrin acts as a shield for quite some time, as it fosters many adaptive protections for a child as they grow. For example, lactoferrin derived from cow’s milk has been shown to reduce symptoms of upper and lower respiratory infections in toddlers [13], as well as preventing illness from gut parasites such as Giardia [14], and from fungus [15].

Is lactoferrin safe? What other benefits does it provide?

Not only is lactoferrin a safe, natural way to boost immune health during pregnancy, but it can also improve iron regulation. Lactoferrin is heavily involved in managing the body’s iron [16], which is very important when considering that the demand for iron during pregnancy increases by 50% (as it is needed for the expansion of the fetal circulatory system brain development). Therefore, both are key nutrients to consume regularly and to recommended dietary intake levels.

Lactoferrin and iron supplements


Iron deficiency (“anaemia”) is an extremely common nutrient deficiency, and so iron supplements are often recommended during pregnancy. However, such supplements often fail to increase iron levels significantly, whilst also inducing gastrointestinal side effects. Conversely, lactoferrin supplements have been shown to improve iron status in pregnant women much more greatly than iron supplements [17-18], and without the side effects! This may be because lactoferrin can bind to iron, improving its absorption in the intestines and its transportation to cells.


  1. Lu et al. Chembiochem. 2021 Mar 23. Epub ahead of print.
  2. Woodman et al. PLoS One. 2018 Aug 22;13(8):e0201819.
  3. Denani et al. Arch Virol. 2021 Apr;166(4):1203-1211.
  4. Hu Y et al. Emerg Microbes Infect. 2021 Dec;10(1):317-330.
  5. Lonnerdal. J Pediatr, 2010. 156(2 Suppl): p. S26-30.
  6. Lonnerdal. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 2009. 12(3): p. 293-7.
  7. Spadaro et al. FASEB J. 2008 Aug;22(8):2747-57.
  8. Petschow & Talbott. Pediatr Res. 1991 Feb;29(2):208-13.
  9. Tian et al. Biometals, 2010. 23(3): p. 593-6.
  10. Okada et al. Jpn J Cancer Res, 2002. 93(9): p. 1063-9.
  11. Mulder et al. Nutr Res, 2008. 28(9): p. 583-9.
  12. Campione et al. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Jul 11;21(14):4903.
  13. King et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol. Nutr. 2007 Feb;44(2):245-51
  14. Ochoa et al. Clin Infect Dis. 2008 Jun 15;46(12):1881-3
  15. Kondori et al. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2011 Jan;37(1):51-7.
  16. Mazurier et al. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1980 May 7;629(2):399-408.
  17. Paesano et al. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol, 2010. 23(2): p. 577-87.
  18. Paesano et al. Biochem Cell Biol, 2006. 84(3): p. 377-80.



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