"We decided together": a qualitative study about women with HIV navigating infant-feeding decisions with the father of their children.
Kasadha B., Tariq S., Freeman-Romilly N., Pope C., Namiba A., Nyatsanza F., Hinton L., Rai T.
BACKGROUND: The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women with HIV breastfeed for a minimum of one year. In contrast, United Kingdom (UK) guidelines encourage formula feeding, but breastfeeding can be supported under certain circumstances. Infant-feeding decisions often involve personal and social networks. Currently, little research addresses how individuals with HIV in high-income countries navigate infant-feeding decisions with the father of their children. METHODS: Semi-structured remote interviews were conducted with UK-based individuals with a confirmed HIV positive diagnosis who were pregnant or one-year postpartum, and two partners. Using purposive sampling, pregnant and postpartum participants were recruited through HIV NHS clinics and community-based organisations, and where possible, fathers were recruited via them. Data were analysed using thematic analysis and organised using NVivo 12. RESULTS: Of the 36 women interviewed, 28 were postpartum. The majority were of Black African descent (n = 22) and born outside the UK. The key factors in women navigating HIV and infant-feeding discussions with respect to their baby's father were the latter's: (1) awareness of woman's HIV status; (2) relationship with the woman; (3) confidence in infant-feeding decision; (4) support and opinion about woman's infant-feeding intentions. Most women made a joint decision with biological fathers when in a long-term (> one year) relationship with them. Single women tended not to discuss their infant-feeding decision with the father of their child, often for safety reasons. CONCLUSION: Women in ongoing relationships with the father of their child valued their support and opinions regarding infant-feeding. In contrast, single women chose not to involve the father for reasons of privacy and safety. Clinical teams and community-based organisations should support mothers in discussing infant-feeding decisions regardless of relationship status. When appropriate, they should also support discussions with their partners, but remain sensitive to circumstances where this may put women at risk.