Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

In the United States, to prevent HIV transmission, HIV-infected mothers should not breastfeed their infants.

HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and is spread through certain body fluids, including breast milk. Mother-to-child transmission can occur during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. Treatment for HIV (antiretroviral therapy, or ART) reduces the risk of transmission from a mother to her infant.

Is it safe for a mother infected with HIV to breastfeed her infant?

No. The best way to prevent transmission of HIV to an infant through breast milk is to not breastfeed. In the United States, where mothers have access to clean water and affordable replacement feeding (infant formula), CDC and the American Academy of Pediatricsexternal icon recommend that HIV-infected mothers completely avoid breastfeeding their infants, regardless of ART and maternal viral load. Healthcare providers should be aware that some mothers with HIV may experience social or cultural pressure to breastfeed. These mothers may need ongoing feeding guidance and/or emotional support.

In resource-limited settings, such as some parts of Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that HIV-infected mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months of life and continue breastfeeding for at least 12 months, with the addition of complementary foods. These mothers should be given ART to reduce the risk of transmission through breastfeeding.