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Pediatr Neurol. 2017 Dec;77:67-72. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2017.09.007. Epub 2017 Sep 14.

Breastfeeding During Infancy Is Associated With a Lower Future Risk of Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis.

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Department of Neurology, Division of Pediatric Neurology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Electronic address:
College of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Department of Neurology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.



Risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) is influenced by environment and genetics. Infant breastfeeding appears protective against some childhood autoimmune disorders, but its impact on risk of MS in childhood is unknown. The objective of this study is to analyze the association of breastfeeding in infancy on future risk of pediatric-onset MS.


Biological mothers of 36 consecutive pediatric-onset MS patients completed a questionnaire on history of breastfeeding and various birth and demographic factors. The control group consisted of 72 otherwise healthy patients with a diagnosis of migraine and normal brain magnetic resonance imaging obtained less than 12 months before enrollment. Inverse probability of treatment weighting was used to reduce selection bias and balance the covariates between breastfed and non-breastfed children.


Demographics (with the exception of body mass index) and birth factors were not significantly different between groups. Whereas 36% of cases were breastfed, 71% of controls were breastfed (P = 0.001). The median duration of breastfeeding was 0 weeks (range: 0 to 40 weeks) for cases and 16 weeks (range: 0 to 216 weeks) for controls. Lack of infant breastfeeding was associated with future diagnosis of pediatric-onset MS (odds ratio = 4.43; 95% confidence interval, 1.68 to 11.71; P = 0.003). This association remained significant after correcting for covariates, such as body mass index and age at diagnosis.


These data demonstrate that absence of infant breastfeeding has an association with an increased risk of pediatric-onset MS diagnosis.


autoimmune; breastfeeding; multiple sclerosis; obesity; pediatric

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