There is nothing more painful (literally) to get rid of than thrush while breastfeeding.
I have had a few bouts of thrush in my nursing days, and I can tell you from experience that it is not easy to treat!
Over the years, I have tried many remedies but my favorite by far is to use Gentian Violet for thrush when breastfeeding.
In this article, I will outline how to use Gentian Violet for thrush but be warned, it’s messy! But completely worth it!
How to Use Gentian Violet for Thrush When Breastfeeding
This post contains affiliate links.
What is Thrush?
First thing is first, what exactly is thrush?
Thrush is a fungal infection (also known as yeast). Candida Albicans is the technical term and is something we all have in/on our bodies -commonly in the mouth, vagina, on the skin and in the GI tract.
It becomes an issue when under certain circumstances the fungus grows and spreads becoming an infection.
Unfortunately, for breastfeeding moms, we provide the perfect conditions for an overgrowth of candida – warm, moist, and sugar from the milk.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Thrush?
Symptoms of Thrush may show up in both mom and baby, just one of them, or neither of them as in some cases there are no symptoms at all.
Here are the most common symptoms.
- Cracked nipples that won’t heal after time
- Nipples that look red, puffy, scaly, weepy, flaky, scaly, or have tiny blisters or white spots
- Itchy nipples
- Pain in breast/nipple that can be described as burning, stabbing, needles, etc
- Nipples that become sore suddenly with no other cause
- Baby may have white patches or tiny blisters in the mouth around the cheeks, gums, or tongue.
- Baby may be fussy and sucking can be uncomfortable
- Yeast can cause a diaper rash in a baby as well. It will appear red or pink and possibly have a scaley texture. The rash will not go away with the use of diaper creams or powders. Those may actually make it worse.
Common Treatments for Thrush
There are a lot of treatments and preventatives for thrush.
These include (to name a short few):
- Prescription from doctor
- Drinking Green Tea
- Avoiding Sugar/Yeast
- Sterilizing Bottles and Pump Parts
- Using Coconut Oil
- Using Vinegar
- Using Baking Soda
- Antifungal Creams
- Gentian Violet
Click here to learn more about these different methods.
Learn More About Thrush From a Lactation Consultant:
How to Use Gentian Violet for Thrush When Breastfeeding
Note: I am not a doctor and therefore, do NOT give medical advice. You should consult your doctor before taking ANY medications even when over the counter. It is best to review your plan to use Gentian Violet with your doctor and lactation consultant. This article is intended to be informational.
What is Gentian Violet?
Gentian Violet is an antiseptic dye used to treat fungal infections of the skin. It can also be used on minor scrapes and cuts since it carries some antiseptic properties.
It is BRIGHT purple and stains anything it touches. That includes clothes, bras, blankets, bed sheets, skin, etc. So use with caution (and with cheap stuff you don’t care about)!
How to Use Gentian Violet for Thrush
In order to get rid of thrush completely, you need to be sure you are treating both mom and baby.
Because it is possible to get thrush on and in your breast as well as in the mouth, it is possible to pass thrush to your baby and back again. So only treating your breast or only your baby’s mouth will likely not solve the issue.
You will want to treat both.
What You Need:
1 – Gentian Violet –
It is sold in 1% or 2%. I suggest the 1% since you need to dilute it to .5% when using it in baby’s mouth.
You can grab a bottle of Gentian Violet 1%, here.
2 – Cotton Swabs or Q-Tips –
I found it easiest to use a cotton swab or Q-Tip when applying the Gentian Violet. A tiny amount goes a long way, so it helps in controlling the amount you use!
3 – Old Clothes/Rags –
This stuff is messy! Even after you apply it, it continues to rub off onto clothes, bed sheets, anything it touches well after it dries! So make sure you wear dark-colored clothing and use blankets and things you don’t mind throwing out.
4 – Disposable Nursing Pads –
Buy some disposable nursing pads to help save your bras while using Gentian Violet. Trush me, you will be happy you did!
You can grab a box of Nursing Pads, here! Love this brand!
5 – Coconut Oil or Aquaphor –
This comes in handy in trying to keep it from staining your baby’s face. Just apply a little to their lips and cheeks before applying the Gentian Violet.
You can grab some Aquaphor (which I use on literally every skin ailment and is amazing), here!
Or see which Coconut Oil I use on my babies, here!
How to Apply Gentian Violet
Note: It is a good idea to first test Gentian Violet on a small part of the skin on both baby and yourself BEFORE using it over a larger area. In some cases, people can react to it as with anything. So better to test it first.
Applying to the Breast/Nipple:
- Dip a cotton swab into the Gentian Violet
- Gently, dab the cotton swab onto each nipple, painting the nipple and surrounding areola.
- The skin should all be purple and you need to ensure you paint a big enough area to cover all the areas that might be affected or touched when baby nurses.
- Allow to dry for a minute.
- Wear disposable nursing pads to protect clothing.
- I found it best to do this after I nursed my baby. You can wash your nipples off with water and pat dry, then apply the Gentian Violet.
How Often to Apply Gentian Violet to the Breast:
It is best to apply at least twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night. Make sure you are applying to clean, dry nipples.
Also, be sure to thoroughly rinse your nipples with water after each nursing or pumping session.
Applying to Baby’s Mouth:
- After nursing your baby, “rinse” baby’s mouth using a cotton swab or small cloth dipped in water to wipe and remove any milk in baby’s mouth.
- Use a small amount of coconut oil or Aquaphor around the outside of your baby’s mouth including lips and cheeks to help prevent staining.
- Using a small medicine dropper (you can get one from your pharmacy), measure out a tiny amount of water and put the water into a disposable cup (the paper bathroom cups work great for this!)
- Then measure the same exact amount of Gentian Violet into the cup and mix with the water (note: this will work if you are using Gentian Violet 1%. You need to dilute it to .5% so it is 1 part water, 1 part Gentian Violet. If you are using 2% then you need to do 3 parts water to 1 part Gentian Violet).
- Dip a clean cotton swab into the water/Gentian Violet mixture and gently paint the inside of your baby’s mouth getting the top, cheeks, tongue, etc.
- Remember: A little goes a LONG way! Try only dipping a tiny amount and you will see it start to spread quickly when you go to paint baby’s mouth.
How Often to Apply Gentian Violet to Baby’s Mouth:
You should apply the Gentian Violet at least once a day to your baby’s mouth. Before bedtime seems to work best. I have used it twice a day in a severe case and it worked well.
Be sure to wipe out baby’s mouth with a clean wet cloth after each nursing session or when taking a bottle.
In some rare cases, the baby may develop sores from the Gentian Violet (another important reason to dilute it) so be on the lookout and stop using immediately if you see any sores.
Tip: If you are having a hard time applying the Gentian Violet to your baby’s mouth or they are being uncooperative, you can paint a small amount on your nipple and then immediately feed your baby. That will allow it to spread in baby’s mouth.
Applying to Baby’s Diaper Area:
Because thrush can also be in the GI tract, it is a good idea to treat baby’s diaper area even if a rash has not shown up.
- Clean baby’s diaper area (works best after a bath) and dry thoroughly
- Dip a clean cotton swab into the Gentian Violet
- Paint all of the diaper area
- Allow to air dry for a moment
- Put on diaper
How Often to Apply Gentian Violet to the Diaper Area:
You can apply Gentian Violet once a day to baby’s diaper area. As stated above, after bath time works best.
Be sure you keep the area clean and dry, changing their diaper often and immediately if soiled.
How Long Should You Use Gentian Violet?
Start by using for at least 3 days and up to 7 days.
There are times that the yeast may be inside the nipple and that will require a prescription pill to get rid of it. So if you see no improvement after 3 days, talk again to your doctor.
You should see improvement fairly fast with Gentian Violet.
I know after the first few uses for me, the pain in my nipples improvement a lot. My baby also seemed to nurse more comfortably.
You Have Started to Use Gentian Violet, What now?
Using Gentian Violet or any other remedy for thrush, unfortunately, is only half the battle.
Thrush can survive in clothing, bottles, pump parts, etc unless properly sanitized.
You need to treat all the things in your house that could possibly reinfect you or your baby.
Here are some things you need to do after each use:
1 – Wash Clothes, towels, bed sheets in HOT water and add a cup of vinegar
Yes, sounds like a pain but everything you touch each day needs to be washed. That includes all clothing (and bras), bed sheets, crib sheets, towels, blankets, etc. Washing is not enough to kill thrush. The water needs to be HOT and adding vinegar will help kill it off.
2 – Sanitize all Bottles, pacifiers, lovey blankets, teething toys (any toy that may have gone in the mouth)
It is not enough to just wash bottles, etc they need to be sanitized at high heat. Boil all bottles, pacifiers, etc for at least 20 minutes to kill the thrush after each use!
For toys, lovey blankets, etc it is best to review the manufacturer recommendations for cleaning but remember simple soap and water will NOT kill the yeast.
3 – Sanitize Pump Parts
Just like bottles, pump parts need to be sanitized after each use. This includes all parts that touch your breast or breast milk. Boil for 20 minutes.
Click here to read more about sanitizing breast pump parts.
How Long Does Gentian Violet Stain Skin?
I remember looking at my baby’s purple face and the random purple patches all over me and thought, “Goodness will this ever come off?!”
Rest assured that it does eventually come off. After the first full day of not using Gentian Violet, it was mostly off our skin. Within 2-3 days, it was completely gone.
So if you have any important pictures to take, gatherings, etc maybe plan ahead!
Is Gentian Violet Safe to Use on Babies?
Gentian Violet has been used for many years in the treatment of thrush and is still recommended by health officials.
Dr. Sears noted on their site that while Gentian Violet has been used and trusted, a recent study in Australia was trying to link it to cancer in the mouth. Dr. Sears warns that Gentian Violet should not be used long term. They did not link to the study in their article, however… Of course, you should always do your own research and speak with your doctor.
Gentian Violet still seems to be a goto for treating thrush but with any medication, there can be side effects so use sparingly and with caution.
Breast Pumping With Thrush
There are a lot of questions about pumping when you have thrush.
- Is the milk safe for baby?
- Can you freeze the milk?
- How do you kill the yeast in the breast milk?
- Can you feed your baby milk you pumped while having thrush later?
You can find the answers to all these questions and more tips for treating thrush in this article – click here!
Have any questions or comments about using Gentian Violet to Treat Thrush? Drop me a comment below!
20 Ways to Increase Your Milk Supply After Battling Thrush! -READ NOW—->
Pin it for Later!
Not sure how it worked for anyone else, but maybe I am the exception as usual. I was so excited when I found this at the store because it has been months of battling pain and cracked itchy nipples. I was using just Aquaphor and weaning babies off breastfeeding since it became so painful. Went from about 5-7 times nursing down to only 1-2. NOT easy with twins and no help other than my working tired husband. This is my second day trying out gentian violet and last night my nipples cracked worse and deeper than ever!!! Had to pry the babies off this morning because I just couldn’t take it anymore. Has this been anyone else’s experience?? Is this what it does before getting better??
Heather Grace says
Hi! I am so sorry it is so painful for you! The issue is that Gentian Violet contains alcohol… so if you have cracked nipples, it will most definitely hurt! If you have been dealing with it for this long, a prescription is probably your best bet at this point. I wish you the best of luck!
This was the only thing that worked for us. I’m so grateful it exists. Messy but worth a try!
Heather Grace says
I have heard this same thing from so many moms! It was what worked for me and my baby too. And the mess is crazy! I actually had someone (a stranger) ask/accuse me of giving my baby girl a grape popsicle haha. I started to explain what it was and then gave up. What can you do! I am glad you found Gentian Violet worked. Thrush is a nasty business!