Breastfeeding: A Possible Hidden Benefit

Multiple sclerosis risk may be lower in mothers who breastfeed their babies

(RxWiki News) Mothers who breastfeed their children longer may be less likely to develop multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a new study.

The authors of this study said their findings add another item to the growing list of benefits of breastfeeding.

"Other health benefits include a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart attack," said study author Dr. Annette Langer-Gould, of Kaiser Permanente Southern California, in a press release.

This study looked at more than 800 women. Some were newly diagnosed with MS or a precursor to the degenerative disease, and others did not have MS.

MS is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. In MS, the immune system destroys the protective covering of patients' nerves. This damage causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. MS can cause significant disability.

Healthy women who breastfed their children for at least 15 cumulative months were less likely to develop MS than women who breastfed their children for less than four months, this study found.

In addition, women who were age 15 or older at the time of their first menstrual cycle were less likely to develop MS later when compared to women who were younger at the time of their first menstrual cycle.

"This study provides more evidence that women who are able to breastfeed their infants should be supported in doing so," Dr. Langer-Gould said. "Among the many other benefits to the mother and the baby, breastfeeding may reduce the mother's future risk of developing MS."

This study was published in the journal Neurology.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke funded this research. Study authors disclosed ties to pharmaceutical companies.

Review Date: 
July 13, 2017