Terrence Higgins Trust uses cookies to improve your experience of our websites. For more information or to change the use of cookies, please click here.

Accept and Close

Breastfeeding and postnatal care

african baby being changed

Breastfeeding is not recommended for women living with HIV.

How should I feed my baby?

Always bottle-feed your baby with infant formula milk.

Breastfeeding your baby is not recommended. Breast milk contains HIV, which means you could pass on HIV if you breastfeed.

Your HIV clinic will give you more advice on feeding your baby safely and comfortably. If you have money worries, help may be available for the cost of formula feed and equipment.

Feeding time can still be an occasion for bonding and holding the baby close.

You may have mixed feelings about bottle-feeding, especially if most other mothers you know do breastfeed.

Remember: by bottle-feeding you're taking the best care of your baby, and are giving him or her the best chance of growing up without HIV.

Family and friends may ask why you aren’t breastfeeding, and dealing with their questions can be difficult. If you don’t want to talk about HIV, you could say that you are not producing enough milk, that you have mastitis (inflammation of the breast), or that you have cracked nipples.

Will my baby need HIV treatment?

Yes, your baby will need to take a special liquid form of anti-HIV drugs for four weeks after birth. This doesn’t mean that the baby has HIV.

Will my baby be tested for HIV?

Yes, to check that your baby is not infected, HIV tests will be done several times:

  1. just after birth
  2. at six weeks
  3. at twelve weeks
  4. and a final HIV antibody test at 18 months.

If these tests are negative and you've never breastfed, you'll know for sure that the baby does not have HIV.

You need to avoid breastfeeding, but apart from that, HIV transmission is not an issue in day-to-day life with your baby. You can kiss and cuddle without worry.

How will I feel after my baby is born?

Many women feel sad or down in the first week or two after giving birth. This is called the ‘baby blues’ or postnatal depression, and usually only lasts a few days. Postnatal depression is caused by hormonal changes that follow giving birth.

About 10% of women will experience postnatal depression in the first year of their baby’s life. This can be distressing, so if you think you might be suffering from this from of depression, seek help and support.

Remember, overwhelming life changes brought about by a new baby are always challenging, but they can be particularly complex for women living with HIV.

Your baby’s arrival could be accompanied by anxiety about the future, self-doubt and exhaustion. You might have nagging worries that your child has HIV, even when the test results tell you otherwise.

Perhaps you can ask friends and family for help with some things, but can’t talk about HIV with them. Your midwife, other clinic staff, support organisations and other HIV-positive mothers will be able to support you through this time.

Next: Contraception ››

‹‹ Back to: Antenatal care



Whole Star Whole Star Empty Star Empty Star Empty Star (1 vote cast) Please log in or register to vote. What's this?


Please log in or register to add this article to My favourites. What's this? Adding an article to My favourites will allow you to easily come back to it later or print it.

Your comments

You will need to be logged in before you can leave a comment.

Please log in using the form on the top right of the page or register.

The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 28/6/2017 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 28/6/2020

Content Author: S. Corkery (NAM)

Current Owner: Kerri Virani

More information:

Breastfeeding, NAM Aidsmap

Pregnancy – sometimes people ask me why I don’t breastfeed, i-Base

Mastitis, NHS Choices, May 2016

HIV and having a baby, Greta Hughson, NAM Aidsmap, December 2015

Pregnancy and birth (From HIV and Women booklet), NAM Aidsmap, 2014

Can you catch HIV from kissing?, NHS Choices, April 2015

Postnatal depression, NHS Choices, February 2016

Feeling depressed after childbirth, NHS Choices, October 2015

New British guidelines recommend treatment for everyone with HIV by Keith Alcorn, 24 June 2015, NAM

NHS Choices Feeling depressed after birth

de Ruiter A et al. Guidelines for the management of HIV infection in pregnant women 2012 (updated May 2014) BHIVA, 2014