Breastfeeding is not recommended for women living with HIV.
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.
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.
Yes, to check that your baby is not infected, HIV tests will be done several times:
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.
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
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This article was last reviewed on
by Anna Peters
Date due for the next review: 28/6/2020
Content Author: S. Corkery (NAM)
Current Owner: Kerri Virani
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
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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
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Various people talk about their experiences of living with HIV.
CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau
HIV Drug Interactions
George House Trust
Equality and Human Rights Commission
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