There is a lot of controversy about breastfeeding and HIV infected mothers with more people opposing to it. A new study shows that women with HIV who exclusively breastfeed for the first six months have very little chances of transmitting the virus to their children. However, if the solid foods get introduced along with breastfeeding within this period, the chances of transmission drastically increase.

Also, the mortality risk of replacement feeding was found to be higher than for exclusive breastfeeding.

The researchers included 2,722 women in the study with 1,372 of them being HIV-positive. This study focused on the HIV-positive women, but other women were also given the option of exclusive breastfeeding with skilled support from community workers, replacement feeding with formula, or mixed breastfeeding.

1,132 HIV-positive women started exclusive breastfeeding; only 109 began with replacement feeding and 35 with mixed breastfeeding. Study results showed that the estimated risk of acquisition of infection at six months was 4.04%; that breastfed infants who were both breastfed and received solids were than 10 times more likely to acquire infection than exclusively breastfed children; that infants who at 12 weeks received both breast milk and formula milk were also at higher risk of infection and that cumulative three-month mortality in exclusively breastfed infants was 6.1%, compared with 15.1% in infants given replacement feeds.

The study results are extremely important and characterized as a "breakthrough" as they give evidence that babies have only a low risk of infection with HIV if their mothers breastfeed exclusively. Also, the study provides evidence of the hazards of formula feeding.