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Breastfeeding Tied to Reduced Risk of MS Relapse Postpartum

Protective effect seems to last only about as long as exclusive nursing does

TUESDAY, Sept. 1, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Breastfeeding exclusively for at least two months may help new mothers with multiple sclerosis (MS) lower their risk of relapse, according to research published online Aug. 31 in JAMA Neurology.

Kerstin Hellwig, M.D., a researcher at Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, and colleagues followed 201 pregnant women in the postpartum period. Data was collected from 2008 to 2012. All of the women had relapsing-remitting MS. The researchers followed the women for a year after giving birth. About 60 percent intended to breastfeed only for at least two months; the others breastfed partially or not at all.

The researchers found that 38.3 percent of those who didn't breastfeed exclusively or at all had a relapse within six months of childbirth. But just 24.2 percent of those who did breastfeed exclusively for two months had a relapse in the six months after giving birth. After the women who breastfed exclusively added supplemental feedings to their baby's diet, the relapse rates between groups became similar, Hellwig told HealthDay.

"Clearly breastfeeding is not harmful and therefore most women with MS should be supported if they choose to breastfeed exclusively since it clearly does not increase the risk of postpartum relapse," Hellwig added.

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