If you have hepatitis C alone
it is safe safe to breastfeed your baby. There is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through breastfeeding. However, if your nipples crack or bleed, stop breastfeeding until you have healed.
If you have both hepatitis C and HIV
It is recommended that you do not breastfeed, because HIV can be passed to the baby through breast milk. Even without breastfeeding, you can bond strongly with your baby by making eye contact, holding your baby, and talking and singing to your baby. Formula is a safe and healthy option. Oak Tree Clinic has a program that provides free formula for infants born in British Columbia to mothers living with HIV.
Some women see the opportunity in formula feeding. You can schedule feedings more easily, sleep or take a break while someone else feeds the baby, and have other members of your family share in the experience of feeding the baby. You can also eat what you want without worrying about how it will affect the baby. You’ll know exactly how much your baby has eaten by measuring what goes in and out of the bottle, and you’ll know what nutrients the baby is getting by deciding on a formula.
By not breastfeeding, women living with HIV may experience disapproval or confusion from people. If people hassle you about why you aren’t breastfeeding and you don’t want to share your HIV-positive status with them, that’s okay. There are many other reasons why women may not breastfeed. You can say you are taking medications that aren’t compatible with breastfeeding (one woman used her migraine medication as an excuse), or you can say that you’re not producing enough milk, or you can say that the baby wouldn’t latch onto the nipple.