Thrush is a fungal infection (also known as yeast) that can affect both you (on your breasts) and your baby (in the mouth). We all have the fungus Candida Albicans in our bodies.
It typically lives harmlessly in the mouth, vagina, on the skin, and GI tract. Under certain conditions, the fungus can grow and spread leading to an infection.
Breastfeeding provides the perfect place for an overgrowth of candida – warm, moist, and sugar from the milk – Making you and your baby at risk.
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 and/or burning
- 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.
How to Treat Thrush
It is important to treat both you and your baby when Thrush is concerned. Even if you have symptoms and your baby doesn’t or other way around. You don’t want to risk getting rid of it only to get it again a few weeks later. You will continue to pass it to each other which is why both of you need treatment.
It is always best to consult a doctor if you believe you have thrush before trying any remedies.
To Treat Thrush on Nipples
- Try drinking Green Tea – Drink 4 cups per day. Evidence support that green tea may help rid your body of the excess yeast, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to try.
- Avoid sugar and yeast – Yeast lives off sugar so avoid eating foods with sugar and foods containing yeast (like bread, sweets, beer, etc).
- Sterilize all bottles, pump parts, pacifiers, etc after each use – Sterilize, not just wash! There is a difference. To sterilize it’s best to boil the bottle parts and pump parts in hot water for a few minutes. This kills the yeast.
- Use Coconut Oil or Caprylic acid supplements – Coconut Oil is known for its healing properties. Just dab some on your nipple using a cotton ball several times a day. Caprylic acid is one of three fatty acids in coconut oil. You can find Caprylic acid supplements at health stores.
- Wash hands with hot water and soap often – The key to ridding yourself of thrush is not spreading it. Wash your hands often with hot (not too hot, though, come on) and lots of soap.
- Try vinegar and water on your nipples after feeding – Combine one cup of water with one tablespoon of vinegar and rinse nipples using a cotton ball. Let air dry. Admittedly, vinegar is a great way to disinfect naturally but I have such a hard time stomaching the smell of vinegar that I personally haven’t tried this. Though people swear by it.
- Wash clothes in hot water (and add vinegar) – Make sure to wash your clothes in hot water to kill the yeast on your and baby’s clothes. If you are feeling extra adventurous, add a swig of vinegar to the wash.
- Apply Antifungal creams if needed – Over the counter creams like Lotrimin AF or Gyne-Lotrimin (containing clotrimazole) and Monistat (containing miconazole) are options. Your doctor can also prescribe a cream like Nystatin or Nizoral. The cream, when applied to your nipple, should be absorbed quickly and there won’t be any need to wash off before feeding. You can gently dab a warm washcloth to your nipple though if you feel the need to wash it off before nursing or pumping. It is best to apply the cream after you have nursed or pumped and washed off your nipples. That way it has time to set in before you nurse again.
- Try Gentian Violet – This antifungal medicine can be messy so beware. It will dye just about anything it touches (skin included) a purple color. Best to talk to your doctor first but this is available without a prescription. Use it once or twice a day on your nipples. Wear old clothes or ones you don’t mind staining since it will likely leave a nice tie dye effect.
To Treat Thrush in Baby’s Mouth
- Try Baking Soda – Take one teaspoon of baking soda and dissolve in a cup of water. Dip a Q-Tip in the water/baking soda mixture and swab in baby’s mouth (getting along both cheeks, gums, and tongue) 4-5 times a day or after every feeding.
- Rinse Baby’s Mouth after every feeding – Since yeast thrives on sugar and multiplies quickly (every hour or so), make sure you are rinsing baby’s mouth after every feeding. Try the baking soda mixture or just use water. Do not rinse baby’s mouth and then offer a bottle or pacifier that has not been sanitized or all you will do is keep spreading the yeast.
- Sterilize all bottles, pacifiers, and toys – This should be done after each use.
- Antifungal Creams – I would make sure you see your doctor before using any creams in your baby’s mouth. They likely will prescribe Nystatin. This is best applied after your baby feeds. Rinse baby’s mouth and then apply the medication. Do not offer a non-sterilized item to your baby (bottle, paci, etc) after applying the medication as it may contaminate it.
- Try Gentian Violet – Again, this is messy and will stain. Try applying a little Aquaphor or lanolin to baby’s lips before you apply the Gentian Violet to try and minimize the stain. And do check with your doctor first.
Yeast Rash in Diaper Area on Baby
- Wash with soap and water after each diaper change – Throw out the baby wipes and stick to old fashion soap and water in this case. Not only will wipes irritate the rash but it may not feel so good on baby’s bottom. Let baby’s skin dry completely before putting on a clean diaper.
- Use Baking Soda – Baking soda can be used in the bath and as a spot treatment. To use in the bath, the best method is to mix 2-3 heaping tablespoons of baking soda with 3-4 cups of warm water. Soak a clean, dry washcloth in the mixture and gently bathe baby’s diaper area. You can leave the mixture on to dry which will help protect against the rash. To use as a spot treatment, mix 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda with warm water and sponge the mixture into baby’s diaper area. Let it dry and put a clean diaper on.
- Ask Doctor – If natural remedies aren’t cutting it, it’s best to ask your doctor for their suggestion on treatments. Most diaper rash creams do not work on yeast rashes and may make things worse. A doctor may advise you to use the same antifungal cream you are using on your nipples or to use Gentian Violet. But it’s best to ask first.
Continuing to Breastfeed and Pump with Thrush
Many mothers want to know if it is safe to breastfeed and/or pump when you have thrush and the answer is YES. Continue breastfeeding and pump as normal. Your nipples may be in pain so holding a washcloth with ice to them before nursing or pumping may help.
If you notice a dip in your supply, don’t be too concerned. It should come back to normal with treatment.
Using Expressed Breast Milk with Thrush
It is safe to use expressed breast milk while you and your baby are being treated for thrush. However, once your thrush has cleared up, the remaining milk will need to be tossed (sorry, I know).
The yeast is in the milk and you will start the thrush-struggle cycle all over again by feeding that to your baby. Freezing the milk also won’t work since that doesn’t kill the yeast. So any milk expressed while you had thrush will need to be thrown out as a precaution.
What can be done to prevent Thrush?
- Add Probiotics to your daily diet – Probiotics can help keep the overgrowth of candida in check. It can be taken in powder or pill form. Or you can eat live natural yogurt. They make children’s probiotics as well but be sure to ask your doctor.
- Practice good hand washing
- Boost your immune system – The best preventative is to ensure your immune system is in the best shape possible. Eat healthy (little to no sugar or processed foods), get plenty of rest, and exercise.
Be patient! Dealing with Thrush can be frustrating and take several weeks to get rid of but with some persistence and treatment, you will win the battle!
Have any suggestions or remedies that work with treating Thrush? Leave a comment here!
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