Elissa Benson, NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor and Chartered Neuro Physio, talks breastfeeding and MS
There is a lot of information already out there in the public domain that can inform a mother when it comes to making a decision about breastfeeding and there is no reason why a mother with multiple sclerosis (MS) shouldn’t breastfeed if she chooses. Her MS isn’t going to affect her milk supply and she isn’t going to transmit it to the baby. It’s also worth noting that some research shows that MS mothers who exclusively breastfeed are almost half as likely to suffer a postpartum relapse.
A matter of medication
Some medications are not indicated for use when breastfeeding, but that doesn’t mean you can’t breastfeed. The best thing to do is consult with your neurologist or MS nurse, who will be able to advise you based on your MS.
Some women opt to delay using medication so they can breastfeed, others feel the medication will allow them to look after their baby and that’s their priority. It really depends on what medication you need to take and what stage your MS is at, but there are options and it’s your own personal decision.
To find out more information about which medications are, or are not compatible with breastfeeding by visiting the Breastfeeding Networks website.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Under normal circumstances mothers have to make all kinds of decisions about breastfeeding, and for some mothers with MS their options are more limited, so actually dealing with how you feel about that is really important. That’s where breastfeeding counsellors come in. We can help mothers explore their options and how they feel about it. It’s an aspect that can often be lost because when you are dealing with the practicalities you can forget to deal with feelings.
Being a new mother is stressful for anyone and if you have concerns over feeding your baby, that can add to the stress. It’s part of our role to help mothers manage their situation so that it can be less stressful and doesn’t make them worse. We all know that stress can exacerbate MS.
Find the right position
Laid back breastfeeding, using a baby led approach, may be a good option to explore. Basically instead of the mother trying to attach the baby, they just let the baby do it themselves because they are pre-programmed to do it. There are lots of different positions to try, but if you are able to access individual support it can help you find a position that works for you and your baby
Dealing with fatigue
Fatigue is a big issue for any new mother, but having MS can make it a lot worse. Having had a baby, you are entering a new phase in your life where you are going to be sleep deprived and your normal sleep pattern disrupted, meanwhile your body is also trying to recover from pregnancy and birth. Managing fatigue is very important, but it is also worth knowing that the hormones your body releases when you’re breastfeeding are the ones that help it return to its pre-pregnancy state.
To discuss your breastfeeding options and find an NCT drop-in session, you can call the NCT Breastfeeding Counsellors Helpline on 0300 330 0700, or visit https://www.nct.org.uk/