Modern medicine has finally agreed that breastfeeding is one of the most beneficial things a new mother can do for her baby. However, there are times when breastfeeding is not a possibility due to factors outside of the mother’s control. One of those instances to be taken into consideration is when the mother has a disease or infection that could be passed to the baby through her breast milk.
The question is if new mother’s who have been diagnosed with Group B Strep disease can safely breastfeed their baby. First, let’s look at what Group B Strep (GBS) is so we can better understand the issue.
What is GBS?
GBS is a bacteria that’s naturally found in the digestive and reproductive systems of both men and women. The problem arises when GBS colonizes in the mother’s rectum and vagina and is then transmitted to the baby at birth. Invasive GBS can cause infant death when left untreated and is mostly transmitted only through the birthing process. Babies who contract GBS can develop sepsis and meningitis ultimately leading to death.
Can GBS be transmitted through breastmilk?
Rarely, GBS can be transmitted through the mother’s milk. These cases aren’t fully understood by doctors since there are so few documented instances, however, two theories of transmission do exist. First, mothers may develop colonization of the milk ducts due to the flow of milk associated with the act of nursing and the baby is then infected as the bacteria increases in the milk. The second theory is that lactic acid bacteria from the mother’s gut is transferred to the milk and then to the baby’s digestive duct.1 | 2