Breastfeeding does not contribute to mortality among HIV-positive mothers in Kenya

A prospective cohort study has found that HIV-positive Kenyan mothers who breastfed their babies had faster declines in CD4 cell count and body mass index than those who formula-fed. However, breastfeeding had no effect on viral load or overall mortality among the mothers after two years.

Most discussion of breastfeeding by HIV-positive mothers focuses on the risk of HIV transmission to the baby. Several studies have now looked at the consequences for the mother in African settings where breastfeeding is common. The first such study, a randomised clinical trial in Kenya, found an increased risk of mortality for breastfeeding mothers compared to those who formula-fed. However, four subsequent African cohort studies found no such association.