What is thrush?
Yeast is a normal part of the body that can get out of control. When you develop a fungal infection caused by yeast, it may be called thrush. Since yeast flourishes in dark, moist areas and feeds on sugars, it’s not surprising that breastfeeding moms and babies are predisposed to this infection.
What are the symptoms for mom?
You may have a thrush infection if you are experiencing stabbing or burning pain in the breast (which may happen during feeding or between feedings). Most moms with thrush have a red, shiny, itchy rash on the areola that may include peeling skin or small blisters. Nipple soreness is another common complaint.
Some women experience a vaginal yeast infection at the same time. If you have a history of mastitis or plugged ducts, this may increase the likelihood of thrush. In addition, if you’ve recently had a course of antibiotics, your natural balance can be shifted allowing the overgrowth of yeast.
What are the symptoms for baby?
For babies, the hallmark of thrush is white patches in baby’s mouth that don’t easily wipe off. These may be on baby’s gums, tongue or the insides of baby’s cheeks. Baby’s saliva may also look pearlescent. Gassiness, fussiness and refusing the breast can all happen with a thrush infection. A red, shiny diaper rash may happen along with the other symptoms. Even if you have clear thrush symptoms, your baby may not show any signs of the infection.
How is thrush treated?
Both mom and baby should be treated, even if only one has thrush symptoms. The chance of reinfection is increased when only one member of the dyad is treated, prolonging the discomfort of the infection.
Antifungal creams are the most commonly prescribed treatment. Your doctor may also recommend an antibiotic cream (for mom’s breasts) or suspension (for baby’s mouth). Oral antifungal medication can also be used, though a longer course is usually needed than is typical for a vaginal yeast infection.
Taking probiotics along with other treatments can be a useful adjunct. Baby can be given probiotic powder diluted in milk or rubbed inside the mouth. Other home treatments include a vinegar rinse (1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of water) or grapefruit seed extract (GSE) dabbed on the breast after each feeding. In addition, coconut oil (which is a natural antifungal) may be soothing when applied to mom’s itchy breasts.
Because yeast thrives on sugars, eliminate those from your diet during treatment (include natural and artificial sweeteners). Cut back on carbs and caffeine. Add yogurt and kefir (with their natural probiotics) to your diet.
Only your healthcare provider can diagnose nipple yeast and thrush. If you think you may have a thrush infection, contact your physician or other healthcare provider.
What can I do to keep it from returning?
It might be useful to treat the whole family (including dad and other children) when one person has obvious thrush symptoms. That way you’re not passing the infection back and forth! Be sure you are cleaning anything that comes in contact with mom’s breast and baby’s mouth or diaper area.
- Wash bras, breast pads, underwear, cloth diapers, etc. in hot water (consider adding vinegar to the wash)
- Wash your hands often with soap and hot water
- Boil pacifiers, bottle teats, teethers, toothbrushes, etc. for 20 minutes every day
- Wash baby’s toys in hot water daily
- Sterilize all pump parts if you are pumping (Keep in mind freezing does not kill yeast, so any milk pumped during infection will need to be used during treatment and discarded once the infection clears.)
Written by Michelle, Lamaze instructor, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.