Shared Stories

Michelle's Story:
I am 23 years old and was diagnosed with MS when I was 19. When I was 21, I gave birth to my 1st child, and have just had my 2nd (he's 7 weeks old). I breastfed my daughter until she was 11 months old, when my new pregnancy made my supply diminish and all of the expressing and constant calling the ABA hotline didn't help (damn those strong pregnancy hormones!). With my new little son, I am planning to exclusively breastfeed him until he is ready to start exploring solids (no earlier than 6 months for solids of course) and provided I don't become pregnant again, continue to feed him until he decides to stop (I'm hoping for 2+ years). I really wanted my daughter to re-wean because she's still so young and tandem feed with her brother but she's decided not to, which I'm OK with.

I remember the day my neurologist told me I had MS. It wasn't a surprise, I was pretty darn sure I had it as MS is quite prominent in my family (my Mum, Sister, Nanna also have MS). What I wasn't prepared for, being 19, was when she asked me when I was considering having children. She discussed with me how it might be difficult to wean off medication so I could have children and then how would the body cope being pregnant, would breastfeeding be safe for babies if I had to start medication again, etc etc. I walked away from that appointment with a lot to think about.

I decided to not start medication. My MS was not as advanced as my other family members, and I decided to try some non medicated ways of at least making life easier before I took the plunge to start medication.

Lucky for me my boyfriend at the time of my diagnosis turned out to be a keeper. We married and as I said before we've just had our 2nd child. Since becoming pregnant with my 1st I have never felt better. I am more sound of mind and body and I think becoming pregnant and continuing to breastfeed my babies is at the core of this. I'm still medication free and hope to be for a few years yet.

People who don't know I have MS always give me a funny look when I say I actually feel better, more energetic and more healthy when pregnant (or breastfeeding) than when I'm not! I have read that sometimes women with MS have an episode soon after they have their baby. But, they never mention if those women continued to breastfeed or gave up a few days/weeks after bub was born which is sadly all too common.

I do remember that I went through a bit of a hard time when I started introducing solids to my daughter. Introducing solids meant she was getting a little bit less breastmilk although I offered and never refused if she wanted it. I think that slight change in the amount of milk she was having somehow triggered (or at least coincided) with an MS episode. I was exhausted more than usual, couldn't talk properly, have what my family has called "marshmallow head" where my brain and thought processes just don't seem to work properly, and I get very depressed for seemingly no reason.

I was going to send you my MS/breastfeeding story sooner, however when I emailed you my draft story, shortly after I experienced what I am sure was my first MS episode after the birth of my son. I spent 2 weeks in bed with my son so I could lie down to breastfeed him, and was in a very sore body and sad mindset.

Mind you, 2 weeks of partial hell, as opposed to 2 months of definite MS hell before I had kids. I believe lactating has something to do with this. And because my mum said she never felt better in mind and body when pregnant/breastfeeding I am almost convinced breast milk is a major contributor.

Once my son has weaned, and we have no more children, I am hoping to express my milk to keep my supply up for as long as possible to keep the benefits of lactating on my body. I am looking into donating my milk that I don't give to my babies, as long as I am medication free.
And once I start medication, I'll still try to express milk (probably pour it down the sink though).

I will admit, I do feel tired all the time, but I think that is part of raising babies. I get into a good rhythm with night feeds and that helps with fatigue from lack of sleep. And I don't find expressing milk a chore. But I think that's because I have oversupply and a forceful letdown, I can whip up a bottle of expressed milk in no time.