Breastfeeding is a not only the first form of immunization for the new-born baby but also aids the mother in recovering from post-partum. Some of the benefits to the mother include being able to lose the baby weight after giving birth, preventing or decreasing the risk of developing breast and cervical cancer and helping to relieve the symptoms of post-partum depression among other things. Now, science and research are giving light to another benefit of breastfeeding; reducing the risk of Multiple Sclerosis.

What is multiple sclerosis (MS)

This is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s antibodies fight the body; the targets being the brain and the spinal cord in this scenario.

Over time, the damage leads to mis communicated signals throughout the body and leads to a number of disabilities, some of which include visual impairment, extreme fatigue and the loss of control over bladder and bowel movements. Doctor Annette Langer-Gould, a regional physician and multiple sclerosis champion at Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena, said that MS often affects women of child-bearing age. She published a study in which findings suggested that breastfeeding can lower the risk of MS in addition to all of its other benefits.

The findings

A comparative study was done in which 397 women who were recently diagnosed with MS and 433 healthy women were selected. The study was questionnaire based and the results indicated that women who breastfed for 15 months and/or longer had a 53 percent less likely chance of developing MS compared to those who did not breastfeed or nursed for less than six months.

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However, the findings were inconclusive and here’s why. Since the interview was questionnaire based but interview centered, many of the participants gave answers based on their memories from several years back; this information was rather subjective than objective and gave rise to error and inaccuracy due to the mere fact that memories are unreliable.

Another downfall of the study is that it relates to association and not cause and effect. In addition to this, the results suggested that in order to decrease the risk of developing MS, a mother would have to breastfeed for 15 months or longer which, is an unrealistic time-period. Though according to The International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes, and all that it stands for; a mother is supposed to breastfeed for at least six months exclusively. After that, the breastfeeding should continue until the child reaches the age of two but after the first six months of breastfeeding, complementary feeding should be introduced and breastfeeding is done in addition to feeding the infant foods.

The study may have some flaws but they are nothing that we cannot work around or support with existing codes, laws and reliable research.

At the end of the day, mothers who have already developed multiple sclerosis should not feel as though breastfeeding alone is their quick fix. Continue to breastfeed but also adhere to prescriptions and the advice of your doctor based on your condition. Regardless if further research proves that breastfeeding can indeed lower the risk of developing MS, a mother should still make it her priority to breastfeed her child as it still carries many benefits for both herself and her baby. More research is definitely needed on the topic.