Feeding your baby
HIV can be transmitted to the baby from breast milk.
This is why HIV positive mothers in the UK are routinely advised to use bottles and infant formula milk (this advice is different in other parts of the world, particularly where there is not access to clean water).
The World Health Organization (WHO) infant feeding guidelines are for women in countries were replacement feeding is not safe or available. WHO recommends that breastfeeding is safer if the mother or the baby receives HIV drugs.
BHIVA and the Children’s HIV Association (CHIVA) recommend the complete avoidance of breastfeeding for HIV positive mothers. This is whether the mother is healthy, has an undetectable viral load or on ART.
The BHIVA/CHIVA position statement on infant feeding in the UK can be accessed here:
Many community groups in the UK (including i-Base, Positively UK and the UKCAB) also recommend complete avoidance of breastfeeding for HIV positive mothers.
Choosing to breastfeed in the UK
Although BHIVA guidelines continue to strongly recommend formula feeding to prevent vertical transmission they recognise that a few women might still prefer to breastfeed their babies.
The guidelines recommend that these women should be advised of the on- going risk of HIV transmission.
But they should be supported in their decision if they have an undetectable viral load on ART and good adherence.
If a woman decides to breastfeed,she and her baby should be reviewed monthly in clinic for viral load testing during and for 2 months after stopping breastfeeding.
Last updated: 1 April 2019.