Morbidity in relation to feeding mode in African HIV-exposed, uninfected infants during the first 6 mo of life: the Kesho Bora study

Document Type



Population Health (East Africa)


Background: Refraining from breastfeeding to prevent HIV transmission has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality in HIV-exposed African infants.

Objective: The objective was to assess risks of common and serious infectious morbidity by feeding mode in HIV-exposed, uninfected infants ≤6 mo of age with special attention to the issue of reverse causality.

Design: HIV-infected pregnant women from 5 sites in Burkina Faso, Kenya, and South Africa were enrolled in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission Kesho Bora trial and counseled to either breastfeed exclusively and cease by 6 mo postpartum or formula feed exclusively. Maternal-reported morbidity (fever, diarrhea, and vomiting) and serious infectious events (SIEs) (gastroenteritis and lower respiratory tract infections) were investigated for 751 infants for 2 age periods (0-2.9 and 3-6 mo) by using generalized linear mixed models with breastfeeding as a time-dependent variable and adjustment for study site, maternal education, economic level, and cotrimoxazole prophylaxis.

Results: Reported morbidity was not significantly higher in nonbreastfed compared with breastfed infants [OR: 1.31 (95% CI: 0.97, 1.75) and 1.21 (0.90, 1.62) at 0-2.9 and 3-6 mo of age, respectively]. Between 0 and 2.9 mo of age, never-breastfed infants had increased risks of morbidity compared with those of infants who were exclusively breastfed (OR: 1.49; 95% CI: 1.01, 2.2; P = 0.042). The adjusted excess risk of SIEs in nonbreastfed infants was large between 0 and 2.9 mo (OR: 6.0; 95% CI: 2.2, 16.4; P = 0.001). Between 3 and 6 mo, the OR for SIEs was sensitive to the timing of breastfeeding status, i.e., 4.3 (95% CI: 1.2, 15.3; P = 0.02) when defined at end of monthly intervals and 2.0 (95% CI: 0.8, 5.0; P = 0.13) when defined at the beginning of intervals. Of 52 SIEs, 3 mothers reported changes in feeding mode during the SIE although none of the mothers ceased breastfeeding completely.

Conclusions: Not breastfeeding was associated with increased risk of serious infections especially between 0 and 2.9 mo of age. The randomized controlled trial component of the Kesho Bora study was registered at Current Controlled Trials (www.controlled-trials.com) as ISRCTN71468401.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.


The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition