To feed or not to feed? Case presentation and best practice guidance for human milk feeding and group B streptococcus in developed countries

J Hum Lact. 2013 Nov;29(4):452-7. doi: 10.1177/0890334413480427. Epub 2013 Mar 18.


Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is the most frequent cause of neonatal invasive disease. Two forms of GBS are recognized: early-onset and late-onset disease. The average incidence of late-onset disease is 0.24 per 1000, a figure that has remained substantially unchanged over time. Exposure to breast milk represents a potential source of infection, especially in late-onset and/or recurrent GBS disease. As a result, both breastfeeding and the use of breast milk have been questioned. We report for the first time the case of both simultaneous and recurrent infection in newborn preterm twins, born 3 weeks apart, resulting from ingestion of GBS positive breast milk. A genetically identical strain was found in both breast milk and her newborn infants. Transmission of GBS through breast milk should be considered in late-onset GBS sepsis. An eradicating antibiotic treatment of GBS positive mothers with ampicillin plus rifampin and temporary discontinuation of breastfeeding and/or the use of heat processed breast milk may represent preventive measures, although outcomes are inconsistent, for recurrent GBS disease. Guidelines on breastfeeding and prevention of recurrent neonatal GBS disease are needed. It is unfortunate that existing scientific literature is scarce and there is no general consensus. As a consequence, we propose a best practice approach on the topic.

Keywords: best practices; breast milk; breastfeeding; group B Streptococcus disease; twins.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Breast Feeding / adverse effects*
  • Developed Countries
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical*
  • Male
  • Milk, Human / microbiology
  • Streptococcal Infections / transmission*
  • Streptococcus agalactiae*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents