We know breastfeeding is good for babies, but did you know that it could help control multiple sclerosis, too? A new study found that half of the new mothers with MS in the study saw a decrease in relapses when breastfeeding.
We already knew that the odds of having an MS exacerbation were low during pregnancy, but this is the first study to assert that the protection lasts during the breasfeeding stage. The 3-6 months post-partum period have traditionally been a time of increased risk for MS activity, and the study confirmed that 87% of those who did not breastfeed did indeed have a relapse.
It makes me think about my own post-partum experiences. With my first one I never made very much milk and by the time he was 6 months old he preferred a bottle to the breast hands-down.
With the second one, I got smarter. Immediately after the birth I began taking Motherlove More Milk Plus Alcohol Free drops with fenugreek herb to increase my milk production, and within days I had so much that it was spraying out of my nipples at the sound of her cries. Unlike her brother, she insisted on nursing until 22 months, when I was so over it that I was desperate to wean. If she had her way, I’m sure she’d still be nursing at 4!
I always thought I was just “lucky” to have come through two births without any MS indications, but now I wonder if it was the breastfeeding that protected me. In the study, most of the women who chose not to breastfeed did so in order to re-start their injectable MS therapies sooner.
I did a lot of research into this when I was pregnant. What I found was that the MS therapy I was on at the time, Copaxone, dissolved into basic amino acids when it hit the bloodstream, so there was not any intact medication available to come through the breast milk to the baby. Additionally, the molecular weight of Copaxone as it was injected was too large to be excreted through breast milk.
With this knowledge in hand, I felt comfortable re-starting Copaxone treatments as soon as my milk came in, after the colostrum period, and continuing treatment while nursing, which I did. I do not think this would have been wise to do had I been on an interferon-based therapy such as Betaseron or Avonex, and I’m certain I, too, would have been counseled not to breast feed had that been the case.
So, now we see that breastfeeding is better protection for a new mother with MS than any of the chemical therapies. It makes total sense to me because the human body is a wonderous mechanism with the number one goal of survival and self-preservation.