Many diseases and illnesses can be transmitted through the air, through sharing bodily fluids and through the water. One very big question is: Can HIV be transmitted through breast milk? Many new mothers who have been diagnosed with HIV would be keen on breastfeeding their babies. But is it safe to do so? Read more to find out the answer to “Can HIV positive mothers breastfeed?

Is it safe?

The truthful answer is that it is not. There is a very great risk that the breastmilk from a mother infected with HIV would carry the disease as well. Babies who drink this milk may also become infected with the virus because they drink the milk. 

Although the overall risk for the virus to be transferred to the infant is only 16%, it would be impossible for doctors to predict how much of the virus would be in the breastmilk that the child consumes. The mother would also have no means of controlling the number of viral loads can be in her breastmilk at any given time. This unpredictability is what makes it unsafe for mothers with HIV to breastfeed.

However, if a new mother living with HIV really would like to breastfeed, there is the possibility of taking antiretroviral treatment. Going back to the question: Can HIV be transmitted through breastmilk? The answer is yes. This is why both the mother and the baby would have to undergo this treatment, to keep the infant safe from contracting the virus. If neither the mother nor the child would undergo treatment, there would be an increased risk of around 15 to 45% of passing the virus on to the child.

What is antiretroviral treatment?

This is a treatment that would prevent HIV from being passed on to the next generation. If a mother had already been diagnosed with HIV before getting pregnant, they would most likely be having treatment already.

The mother needs to continue taking this treatment for life. As for the child, it is highly recommended that the baby also goes through treatment for at least the first six weeks of life, to prevent the virus from developing.

What is a good substitute for breastmilk?

can hiv be transmitted through breast mik

It is not uncommon for mothers who have newly been diagnosed with HIV to cry – especially when they will be told that they cannot breastfeed. Treatment options can be discussed to the mother, as well as alternatives for breastmilk.

Instant formula milk would be one of the most recommended substitutes because this would provide all the necessary nutrition that an infant would need. It would also be very convenient because it can be obtained from any drugstore or supermarket.

Another substitute would be to get breastmilk from a bank. Many mothers who produce too much milk would donate it to a breast milk “bank” and any mother who cannot produce breastmilk may obtain it from there.

Do not let HIV define you

As a mother, you should be given the empowerment to choose how you want your child to be raised. However, take into consideration that anything you do will affect your baby. There are many medical treatments available, and also many healthy options as substitutes for your breastmilk available. Consult your doctor for these options for you and your child.