HIV and other infant feeding policies, programmes and practices
Q.23 How can a national authority recommend exclusive breastfeeding and ARVs for the first 6 months if exclusive breastfeeding rates in the general population are very low?
Exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life is best for all infants, and is always recommended. It helps protect the infant against diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition. Exclusive breastfeeding is much more effective than partial breastfeeding (mixed feeding) at protecting against other infectious diseases.
Even if exclusive breastfeeding rates are low, it is still appropriate to recommend exclusive breastfeeding. If women only partially breastfeed, then some breastfeeding, is still better than no breastfeeding.
In the long term, if the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the general population and/or in HIV-infected women is low, a national authority should assess the reasons why, and take measures to improve it. Experience in various countries has been documented and is widely available to guide national authorities on how to do this. This effort will improve infant survival, health and development for the entire population, whether HIV-exposed or not.