Breastfeeding, maternal health and everyday living
Q.11 Does breastfeeding cause any problem for HIV-infected mothers or cause their HIV disease to progress more rapidly?
Available evidence shows that breastfeeding does not increase the risk of health problems for HIV-infected mothers. One study found that HIV-infected mothers lost more fat during breastfeeding compared to HIV-uninfected mothers (all mothers lose fat while breastfeeding). However, HIV-infected mothers did not lose more lean body tissue, i.e. muscle. (Lean body mass is more important than fat for survival.)
Evidence also shows that HIV disease progression in HIV-infected breastfeeding women is not more rapid compared with HIV-infected women who do not breastfeed. The most important issue for maternal health and breastfeeding is to identify those HIV-infected women who have low CD4 counts, and initiate them on ART according to current guidance. New mothers who do not know their HIV status should be offered testing in the postnatal period. Health facilities should ensure that CD4 testing is available for HIV-infected mothers during the breastfeeding period, and that referral for ART takes place.