What You Need To Know About Thrush

Breastfeeding mom

Photo Courtesy of BabyCareJournals.com
By: Jonathan Kistner 

WHAT IS IT?

Chances are you’ve probably heard of the term thrush now that you’re breastfeeding.

Also known as candida albicans, thrush is a fungal infection caused by yeast that can affect breastfeeding. Generally yeast exists on the body and in the mouth, but it tends to grow when given the chance. Not to worry, we all carry this fungus in our bodies, in fact it’s a normal part of the digestive system. The bacteria in your body typically keeps it at bay. However, thrush can develop both on your nipples and in your baby’s mouth.

Thrush is very common in babies. Experts estimate that as many as 5 percent of babies get it. If your baby has thrush, common symptoms may be white patches that have developed inside of the cheeks and on the tongue. As a new mother, it’s understandable that you would want to test for thrush. Yet, there’s no need! Doctors can simply identify the white patches which are markers of thrush.

Thrush typically has the appearance of cottage cheese or milk curds. It can form on the sides and roof of a baby's mouth, and even on her tongue.

IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT!

Breastfeeding is literally the ideal environment for thrush. Due to the fact that babies have an immune system that can’t effectively control yeast, they become more prone to thrush. Babies’ mouths are the perfect place for thrush to flourish. It’s moist, warm, and the baby is frequently getting a supply of sugar from either  breastmilk or formula. Overall, this creates a rather “yeasty” environment!

PREVENTION IS KEY

Take care of yourself and treat your nipples if they become cracked, itchy, or sensitive to the touch. By treating yeast infections of your nipples you can potentially prevent thrush. One of the best ways to prevent thrush for a baby who drinks from a bottle is by thoroughly cleaning and sterilizing bottles and nipples. 

HOW TO TREAT THRUSH

First, it’s important to keep in mind that breastfed babies can pass the infection onto their mothers just as easily as they can contract it from them.

In order to treat thrush, a prescription antifungal medication should be applied to the inside of your little one's mouth for a few days. As mentioned, a yeast infection of the nipple may appear discolored (pink, red, or shiny), itchy, cracked, and cause pain before/during/after feedings. If this is the case, the same antifungal medication used to treat thrush can also be used to treat infected nipples. And of course, call your doctor before beginning any type of prescription treatment.

The information contained on this site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician and/or lactation consultant.