HIV and Infant Feeding - HIV and Infant Feeding -

HIV and Infant Feeding

HIV and Infant Feeding

by: Dr. Bharti Minocha
Consultant, Gynecology

Knowing that one is HIV positive is an extremely difficult mental and emotional challenge to deal with, especially, for any pregnant woman, as she has to make highly vital decisions about her baby’s health and the first point to ponder upon is how to feed the baby?


It is considered that breastfeeding requires body contact and there is a possibility of HIV getting transmitted to baby is more, but in fact exclusive breastfeeding is the healthiest option mother’s should opt to feed the baby, irrespective of their HIV status.

Mother’s milk is most important:

Exclusive breastfeeding means to feed the baby only with mother’s breast milk and nothing else. It is strictly recommended for the first six months. Mixing breast milk and other foods before this period would only increase the baby’s susceptibility towards the risk of HIV. However, prescribed medications must be given.

For mothers who are on life-long Anti-retroviral (ARV) and choose to breastfeed, her baby will receive a medicine called Nevripine or AZT for 6 weeks or longer. This would reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Counseling is key:

Lactation counseling and proper antenatal care is must for HIV positive women during pregnancy. This would help her to make a well informed decision. It is important that all mothers, regardless of HIV status, are well aware about how to latch their baby onto the breast correctly and that they feed on demand. This would help to prevent cracked nipples, mastitis and abscesses and also minimize the chances of HIV transmission. Practicing safe sex and checking the CD4 count is also important. You may take the advice of your doctor and do accordingly.

For mothers who are unsure and not convinced whether to breastfeed or choose formula feeding. Replacement feeding is safe provided it is prepared correctly and stored appropriately. If one has access to formula and clean, boiled water, they may go for formula feed instead of breastfeed, but it has to be considered that formula feeding is not so beneficial for the baby’s development and doctors do not recommend it as an extensive practice.

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