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Choosing a method for feeding your babies is just one of the most necessary decisions expectant and brand-new parents make. This decision deserve to be also more facility when the birthing parent is living with HIV. The information obtainable to mothers and other parents living v HIV have the right to be confusing for those who might want to discover the alternative of breastfeeding (feeding milk to a baby from one more person’s human body – likewise called "nursing," "body feeding," or "chestfeeding" – nursing by someone who may not have actually breasts).

When a mrs is acquisition HIV drugs and also has an undetectable viral pack (not enough HIV in the blood for tests to measure), the possibility that she will certainly transmit HIV to her HIV-negative sexual partners is zero, and the chance that she will certainly transmit HIV to her baby throughout pregnancy or birth is extremely low – together low as under 1%. The danger of HIV transmission with breast/chestfeeding once the parent"s viral pack is undetectable is likewise low. However, research has not yet displayed that the threat is zero, together is the case with sex-related transmission.

If you space a mrs living through HIV in an area the the world where accessibility to resources, such together clean water, refrigeration, and also medical care is limited, the people Health company (WHO) recommends that you breastfeed if you are taking HIV drugs. A food of HIV drugs may also be recommended for the baby during breastfeeding. The factor for this reference is that in such settings (for instance, many areas of Africa or India) infants are more likely to construct diarrhea and also other illnesses, and also may dice from these. Chest milk includes substances that protect and strengthen a child"s immune system, also after they stop breastfeeding. Due to the fact that of this, chest milk may assist children to make it through these wellness conditions. Furthermore, formula feeding may not be an choice in these areas because of lack of money to buy it, clean water come mix it v (if the formula is powdered), or refrigeration to store it fresh. Health and wellness authorities have determined that the services of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of HIV in areas where resources are limited.

If you are a woman living v HIV in a resource-rich an ar of the world, such together the United states or Europe, you have likely been told no to breastfeed her babies. HIV therapy guidelines created by wellness organizations such together the united state Department of Health and Human solutions (DHHS), europe AIDS Clinical culture (EACS), and the british HIV combination (BHIVA) all recommend that ladies living v HIV stop breastfeeding. Infant formula (as well together clean water and refrigeration) have tendency to be readily available (though that is not always the situation in this areas). The chance of a infant dying native illnesses because that which chest milk can administer protection is lot lower. Therefore, this guidelines are based upon the belief that even low threat of a baby getting HIV from chest milk is no justified once parents can accessibility safe alternatives.

However, parents in resource-rich locations may understand of considerable research mirroring that breast milk is the finest food for most babies, protecting a cultivation baby"s wellness while satisfying every one of their nutritional needs. Women may likewise want to think about breastfeeding for emotionally and cultural reasons, also if lock live in one area wherein formula is quickly accessible. They may experience push from their family members to breastfeed. Not breastfeeding may become a issue of undesirable disclosure of your HIV condition if members that their communities question why they room using formula. If a woman has moved indigenous a resource-limited nation to a resource-rich area, she might wonder why she is being offered a different collection of instructions and potential constraints in her brand-new country.

Furthermore, there are countless health conditions in mothers and infants in the united state that breastfeeding may carry out protection against. This contains sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which reasons death in much more than 1,000 babies in the US annually (the reason of SIDS is unclear, however data show that breastfeeding deserve to reduce risk). Black women and other women of color are disproportionately impacted by HIV. They additionally experience higher rates and worse outcomes from numerous of the reasons of maternal and also infant disease or fatality that breastfeeding might reduce. Therefore, some health care providers functioning on the concern of infant feeding and also HIV believe that recommending versus breastfeeding in resource-rich countries may in reality increase wellness inequities among women living v HIV.

The procedure of deciding how to feed your infant have the right to be overwhelming for parents who space living through HIV. This fact sheet gives some the the info you may want to take into consideration in the process.

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HIV Transmission and also Breastfeeding: What carry out We recognize (and not Know)?

Breast milk is just one of the body fluids—along with blood, semen ("cum"), quality or rectal fluids—that transmit HIV. When the danger of transmission through breast milk autumn if you space taking HIV drugs and also your viral fill is undetectable, there may still be some risk. Having an undetectable viral fill in blood may not guarantee an undetectable viral fill in chest milk. More research is needed into how HIV drugs impact the cell in chest milk, as well as breastfed infants.

A study among more than 2,000 women and also their babies in Africa and also India, called the PROMISE trial, compared results as soon as either a breastfeeding mother or her child took HIV drugs. In both parts of the study, HIV transmission rates to babies were discovered to be very low—less than 1 percent a year after birth. Two babies in this research did gain HIV from their mothers, though there may be reason to think the mothers did not have actually undetectable viral lots at the moment of transmission.

Breast milk additionally transfers the mother"s antibodies to her baby. This can safeguard an infant versus common illnesses and also allergies. Like various other medications, the HIV medicine a woman takes are passed top top to she baby v breast milk. Research study in resource-limited locations shows that this transport of a mother"s antibodies and also HIV drugs may protect her kid from getting HIV. However, we execute not know just how much of the HIV drugs is passed on to breastfed infants, whether that amount changes during the time they are breastfeeding, or what long-term impacts HIV medicine may have actually on the child.

In the US and other resource-rich countries, pregnant females are frequently told the "breast is best," but women living v HIV are additionally told that they must not breastfeed. With modern-day HIV drugs, women"s viral tons may be listed below detectable levels because that a lengthy time. This has plenty of women living through HIV wondering whether the advice not to breastfeed is quiet true because that them.

Much the the info we have on HIV and also breastfeeding originates from resource-limited settings, wherein breastfeeding is recommended and also older HIV drugs space common. Females in resource-rich countries usually take more recent HIV drugs and also are an ext likely come have access to sufficient food and also clean water. Therefore, breastfeeding may influence the health and wellness of both mother and child differently than in resource-limited settings.

Because the hazard of HIV infection to the baby is thought to outweigh the benefits of breastfeeding, guidelines in most resource-rich countries recommend against breastfeeding if the mommy or other nursing parental is living v HIV. That is why no studies on breastfeeding have been carried out in such countries. However, it is essential to allude out that in current years, the DHHS, BHIVA, and also EACS HIV treatment guidelines, which all recommend versus breastfeeding when formula is available, have contained updates that recognize the desire that some ladies living with HIV in resource-rich countries to breastfeed. While no a recommendation, this guidelines suggest ways for companies to assistance the health and wellness of women and also other parents who make that choice, and also the health and wellness of their babies. BHIVA"s accuse stress educated decision-making and support for parents considering breastfeeding. In the US, advocates and clinicians are working to upgrade the united state guidelines come reflect this principles.

What factors Can influence HIV infection Risk throughout Breastfeeding?

Adherence difficulties for brand-new parents: Taking treatment of a newborn is exhausting work. Brand-new mothers may forget come take some of their HIV drugs, and also often forego their own treatment as they treatment for their brand-new babies. Infants likewise need to view a health treatment provider often. The mother may not have time to gain the baby to all your appointments and also go to every one of her very own HIV-related appointments. Not taking all drugs as prescribed or forgetting a health treatment appointment may bring about the mother"s viral pack going up, boosting the danger for passing HIV on to her baby.Inflammation in a baby"s gut: This can occur when the infant is vomiting or has actually diarrhea. Gut irritation has been shown to it is in a risk aspect for HIV transmission through breast milk, because the virus can an ext easily pass into the baby"s bloodstream with an excited gut.Breast infections: A breast infection referred to as mastitis—which is common amongst breastfeeding mother whether they space living with HIV or not—can boost HIV infected inflammatory cells in the area that the infection.Nipple health: Many women"s nipples end up being sore or cracked throughout breastfeeding, even if it is they are new to parenthood or skilled with breastfeeding. Cracked nipples may expose the baby to some of their mother"s blood, again raising the danger for transmitting HIV throughout feeding.Breast engorgement: A brand-new mother"s breasts can sometimes become engorged (painfully overfilled v milk), which may likewise increase the viral pack in chest milk and also the threat of transmitting HIV throughout feeding.

Is U equates to U True for Breastfeeding?

"Undetectable equals Untransmittable," or "U=U," describes the huge and growing body of study that has displayed that a human living v HIV who takes HIV drugs and also whose viral fill is undetectable cannot happen the virus on come their sex-related partners. For more information on this interesting development, please see our reality sheet Undetectable equates to Untransmittable: structure Hope and also Ending HIV Stigma.

The lot of HIV in a woman"s breast milk can be various from the lot in her blood. We do not recognize whether that is likewise true if a woman"s famous load has actually been undetectable for a while and she continues to take HIV drugs.

While the hazard of HIV transmission with breastfeeding is incredibly low once the mother"s viral pack is undetectable, studies have actually not shown the level of risk to it is in zero as is the situation with sex-related transmission of HIV. When research into this worry continues, that is crucial for treatment providers and other ar health professionals to assist women make notified choices based upon the information we have actually today, and to carry out support come those who pick to breastfeed your babies.

Breastfeeding and also HIV: You do not desire to miss out on this informative discussion between two mother fighting because that the ideal to feed their kids as castle choose! In this illustration of A Girl like Me LIVE in honor of national Breastfeeding Awareness Month, host Ci Ci Covin talks through her friend and also sister support Heather O"Connor of International ar of ladies Living with HIV phibìc America about their personal experiences and work roughly informed child feeding decisions because that parents v HIV.

View various other episodes in the A Girl favor Me LIVE series​

What room the Benefits and Risks of Breastfeeding?


Nutrition and also protection for baby: chest milk is the many nutritious food because that babies and also young children. It likewise carries the parent"s antibodies, which safeguard babies from plenty of illnesses and allergies.Health beyond infancy: Breastfed babies also have reduced risk of diseases such as kind 2 diabetes and also obesity later on in life.Cost, availability, and convenience: Breast milk is cost-free and readily obtainable whenever the mommy is through the baby. It have the right to be to express (pumped) and fed come the infant in a bottle once the mom is not nearby.For the breastfeeding parent:Bonding: Breastfeeding may help new mothers feel close to your infants.Mental health: Breastfeeding can also help brand-new mothers stop postpartum depression, which have the right to be serious and make it harder to treatment for a brand-new baby.Maternal blood loss: Breastfeeding lowers the hazard of blood loss after delivery.

Potential risks and also challenges:

Transmission: HIV can betransfer v breast milk, which might mean that a infant born HIV-negative acquires the virus from your mother"s milk. This risk rises with “mixed feeding” (baby is given other develops of nourishment, such as commercial formula or solid food, in addition to chest milk). That is why the that recommends that, because that the an initial six month of their lives, babies in resource-limited nations only it is in fed chest milk. Breastfeeding likewise sometimes leaves nipples sore or cracked, or breasts can end up being engorged—which space not only uncomfortable problems for the mother but may rise the risk of transmitting HIV come the infant.Breastfeeding difficulties: Numerous mothers, nevertheless of their HIV status, battle with breastfeeding while lock work outside the house or take care of other children and also a household. Add to this HIV drugs that need to be handled a schedule—or offered to the infant on a schedule—and additional appointments with health treatment providers, and also finding the time and an are to breastfeed may end up being even an ext difficult.Family coercion: Women may also face press from their families to breastfeed. In particular, women have reported being driven to breastfeed their babies by your mothers-in-law—the head grandmothers of their babies.Overall lack of assistance for breastfeeding: In part countries, such as the US, women discover it an overwhelming to breastfeed, live independence of HIV status. Breastfeeding in public locations is stigmatized and brand-new mothers space expected to go back to work external the residence soon after birth. If "breast is best," women that breastfeed must acquire the assistance they need, even if it is or no they are living through HIV.

How deserve to Parents Living v HIV Feed your Babies Safely?

There are means to acquire your baby breast milk without feeding castle your very own milk (see below). If you pick to breastfeed yourself, right here are part tips to aid you do so safely:

Make sure your infant gets your doses that HIV drugs together well. If you are breastfeeding, added drugs may be prescribed because that the baby, and extr testing may be recommended.Do your best to breastfeed exclusively (no other forms of nutrition for the baby) for six months. Mixing breastfeeding and also infant formula (for example, breastfeeding in the morning and also evening and also using formula throughout the day) has been shown to boost the chance of transmitting HIV.Take an excellent care of her breasts. Shot to avoid engorgement, mastitis, and cracked nipples.Find civilization who will assist you to control the stress of taking treatment of one infant, heal your very own body after birth, breastfeeding, and dealing with your HIV.Some women additionally feel really sad after having a baby (called "postpartum blues" or, in more severe cases, postpartum depression). Seek aid if you feeling this way.Ask knowledgeable people in your community or professionals, such as lactation consultants, because that advice on few of the obstacles you might experience if breastfeeding, consisting of cracked or sore nipples, or a baby that has challenge nursing.Take good care that your own health. Make certain you get sufficient healthy food and also drink many of (clean) water. Breastfeeding is tiring, so get sufficient rest.

What room Other options for infant Feeding?

Infant formula

Feeding a baby formula is the safest option from the perspective of HIV, since it is the only method to insurance absolutely no threat of HIV transmission. Formula is modified cow"s (or goat or soy) milk. The is available as a flour (must be blended with clean water) or liquid (must it is in refrigerated after ~ the container has been opened). The changes to the milk space trying to make it similar to human breast milk. However, formula does no carry any type of antibodies or other nutrients native the nursing parent, and also therefore does not provide the protective effects of chest milk. Unlike your very own breast milk, formula is (usually) not free.

Milk bank

Women that produce more breast milk than they require for their very own baby may provide the extra milk to a milk bank. Women through milk come donate go v a screening procedure and blood tests before donating your milk. The milk financial institution then gives that milk (often for a cost, depending upon the circumstances and also the milk bank) come babies who for every little thing reason can not be breastfed. In theory, this is a good solution for females living with HIV who desire to be sure that there is no way they have the right to transmit the virus to your infant. However, since milk financial institutions depend top top donated chest milk, they may not always have enough milk to provide away. Also, her baby may acquire milk from different women who pass on various antibodies. This way they might not gain as much of a details antibody as they would if lock were constantly fed by the very same woman that passes on just one particular collection of antibodies.

Wet nurse or cross-feeding

One alternative is for an additional woman to breastfeed your baby. Prior to baby bottles became widely available, wet nurses were common. Today, there room some paid wet nurses, or you have the right to have an informal arrangement with a friend. Again, this solution relies on a woman producing much more breast milk than she needs. Unlike a milk bank, the woman giving the milk must be in the same place that her baby is, and obtainable whenever your baby demands to be fed. The mrs would additionally need to be screened for health problems that impact breastfeeding, consisting of HIV among other infection.

Flash heating

You have the right to express your breast milk by utilizing a chest pump, then easily heat the milk to destroy any kind of germs or viruses in it. This process also kills most of the HIV that might be in your chest milk. However, it also destroys some other materials of the milk the are great for her baby. The is also an extremely time-consuming process. Flash heating was occurred for civilization in resource-limited nations who carry out not have accessibility to any type of of the various other options provided here.

What selection Should ns Make?

You space the only person who should decide exactly how your baby will be fed. If you choose to breastfeed, the is essential to take your HIV drugs, and keep up with health treatment visits and viral pack testing, specifically as prescribed and also recommended by her provider. The is also an extremely important to discover a support network, consisting of a provider—and other allies—whom girlfriend trust, and who have the right to be an excellent sources for details without judgment.

Making this decision deserve to be a difficult process. You might feel fear, stress, or also some sadness over any type of of the options you space considering. It is also important to remember to take treatment of yourself throughout this process. It may be helpful to connect with a team of females or others who deserve to offer support, come write about your thoughts and also concerns, or to interact in part other task that help you feel supported as friend prepare to do the best feasible decision for you and your growing family.

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Special thanks to Shannon Weber, MSW native HIVE and also Lena Serghides, phd from university of Toronto because that their special consultation because that this fact sheet.