The HIV epidemic has left many families broken. But fortunately, with growing awareness and advancement in medical science, people with HIV/AIDS are going on to live full lives.
But what about women with this dreaded disease? Can they build a family and have a baby? Can they breastfeed their newborn just like any other mom?
There is a lot of misinformation regarding HIV and breastfeeding. We are here to give you a clearer picture.
HIV And Breastfeeding – Is It Safe?
According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), HIV-infected women in the US are recommended not to breastfeed their infants (1). But is this advisory justified?
According to newer studies, the answer is no!
Till recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that women with AIDS should avoid breastfeeding. But things have changed. New studies indicate that exclusive breastfeeding along with antiretroviral treatment can bring down the chances of a newborn contracting the disease through breast milk (2).
So, now new mothers with HIV are advised to breastfeed their infants and give them all the benefits that come with breast milk. Not only will this help the newborn baby get better immunity but will also protect her from contracting HIV from her mother. But why take the risk? Why breastfeed when one can use infant formula?
Well, the fact of the matter is that infant formula is costly. Many women with HIV do not have the means to buy infant formula.
And if one can buy all the formula in the world, there’s one interesting bit of statistic to consider. A child born to an HIV positive mother and formula fed is less likely to die from HIV-related causes. He is more likely die from under-nourishment, diarrhea, pneumonia, etc. All of these issues can be prevented to a large extend through breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding And HIV Transmission – Factors That Help To Reduce The Risk:
Just blindly breastfeeding a baby does not reduce HIV risk. There are other factors that play a big role too. Here are the things that can protect a newborn baby from HIV:
1. Early Weaning:
Exclusive breastfeeding is a good idea but extended breastfeeding? Not so much! Studies indicate that children who are weaned off breast milk at six months are less likely to get HIV through breastfeeding (3).
2. Exclusive Breastfeeding:
When we say exclusive, we mean feeding an infant only breast milk without adding anything else, like juice or water, to her diet. Studies show that women with HIV produce breast milk, which can fight cells that transmit HIV from mother to child.
3. Preventing And Treating Breast Issues:
Breastfeeding comes with a horde of problems like Mastitis and cracked nipples. For most women, these are just painful conditions. But for mothers who are breastfeeding with HIV, these problems can lead to increased risk of HIV transmission. So, it is important to prevent these problems in women with HIV.
4. Preventing HIV Infection:
If a breastfeeding mother has an infection, chances of her passing on the HIV virus to her baby go up. So, it is important to keep new mothers safe and protected from minor illnesses too.
5. Preventing And Treating Sores And Thrush:
Many infants develop sores and thrush in their mouth. These factors can lead to easy transmission of HIV virus. So, it is important to prevent these problems. If a newborn does end up with these problems, treating them as soon as possible is vital for preventing transmission of HIV.
Hope you liked our post on HIV and breastfeeding. HIV/AIDS is not a life sentence. Many people with the disease go on to live healthy lives. For a new mother, breastfeeding is the ultimate bonding tool. So, don’t let HIV/AIDS keep you from giving your baby the best possible start to life. Go on, breastfeed your baby, without fear or guilt!
And don’t forget to drop in a line in the comments section below!
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