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About 23 percent of people living with HIV in the United States are women. And according to a 2018 study, an estimated 5,000 women living with HIV are expected to give birth that year.

As any parent can attest, after a baby is born, they will need to eat frequently. Because HIV can be transmitted through certain bodily fluids, including breast milk, determining the best way to feed their babies can be more complicated for mothers with HIV.

While individual breastfeeding safety questions should always be discussed with a physician or other healthcare professional, we have gathered information from leading organizations on general breastfeeding safety considerations. HIV.

May be. Recommendations on this issue are complex and differ depending on the organization you visit and your access to resources such as clean water, infant formula, and healthcare.

If a person with HIV wishes to breastfeed, they should speak to their doctor for further advice on their personal safety and the risks.

Here are some things that can influence the safety of breastfeeding with HIV:

  • Antiretroviral therapy (ART). HIV-positive mothers should receive antiretroviral therapy consistently throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Number of maternal viruses. People living with HIV who have an undetectable viral load may be able to breastfeed more safely.
  • Other food resources available. Access to affordable drinking water, infant formula or donor milk will determine whether breastfeeding is the best option for a person living with HIV.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) both advise against breastfeeding for mothers with HIV.

This is because people in the United States largely have reliable access to clean water and affordable alternative infant feeding methods.

In countries with limited resources, the CDC recommends that HIV-positive mothers receive antiretroviral therapy and breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first 6 months.

At this point, breastfeeding should be continued with the addition of solid foods for up to 12 months.

La Leche League International, which offers local support groups for breastfeeding women around the world, encourages people living with HIV to seek the most recent recommendations based on the country in which they live.

In the United States, with constant ART and monitoring, La Leche League encourages exclusive breastfeeding with the support of lactation professionals for the first 6 months.

La Leche League also recommends 4-6 weeks of antiretroviral prophylaxis for the baby after birth. In addition, the baby should be frequently tested for HIV at least 3 months after weaning.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that national health authorities advise whether it is best to avoid breastfeeding the infant or whether HIV-positive mothers should breastfeed while receiving antiretroviral therapy.

In situations where breastfeeding is recommended, WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, then continuing to breastfeed with the addition of solid foods for the remainder of the first year.

If a person living with HIV is unwilling or advised against breastfeeding their newborn baby, other feeding options may include donor milk and formula.

Women who are breastfeeding with supplemental breast milk can give it for other mothers to use with their infants. Donor milk banks will examine this milk for safety.

Donor milk can be expensive, so some people will accept supplemental breast milk from friends or relatives instead. Because this milk is not tested, it is generally not advisable to participate in these exchanges.

Many babies around the world are exclusively formula fed. Parents can choose from a wide range of formulas with various ingredients. Formula can be administered using bottles, spoons and syringes.

Because breast milk can transmit HIV, a mother who is breastfeeding with HIV may pass HIV to her baby. But getting consistent ART and having an undetectable viral load helps reduce that risk.

For the estimated 5,000 HIV-positive women who give birth each year, there are many factors to consider when feeding their newborn babies.

Since a person’s location can affect the recommended infant feeding style, it is important to seek the recommendations and support of local healthcare professionals.

There is no one clear answer about the safety of breastfeeding with HIV. People living with HIV should always discuss the pros and cons of breastfeeding with their healthcare team.

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