Situations that affect breastfeeding
HIV and AIDS
Mothers who are breastfeeding should protect themselves from becoming infected
with HIV. See page 334 to learn how.
Some mothers with HIV pass the infection to their babies through breast milk.
Other mothers with HIV breastfeed their babies and their babies do not become
infected. No one knows exactly why HIV is passed to some babies and not others.
HIV probably passes more easily during breastfeeding when:
• the mother recently became infected with HIV.
• the mother is very sick with AIDS.
• the mother gives formula or other fluids or foods along with breast milk.
• the mother has cracked nipples or a breast infection.
• the baby has thrush in her mouth.
For most mothers, even mothers
with HIV, breastfeeding is the safest
way to feed their babies. That is
because in most places, formula and
other milks cause many babies to
get sick or die from diarrhea or hunger.
Many more babies die from taking
formula than get sick or die from
HIV passed through breastfeeding.
You have a very
If a mother with HIV chooses to breastfeed,
here are some things that may make it safer:
• Give only breast milk for the first 6 months.
Babies who have breast milk and formula, teas, or other foods or drinks are
more likely to become infected than babies who drink only breast milk.
Any other foods or liquids will irritate the baby’s intestines.
• Stop breastfeeding completely after 6 months.
• P osition the baby correctly to avoid cracked
• T reat thrush, cracked nipples, and breast
infections right away.
To prevent cracked nipples,
help the baby get a good
mouthful of breast.
• Do not feed the baby from a breast that has
mastitis or an abscess — instead, remove the
milk and throw it away.
A woman who is being treated with medicines for HIV is less likely to pass the
disease while breastfeeding. See pages 492 to 498.
A Book for Midwives (2010)