Thrush symptoms seem to occur sooner or later for most breastfeeding moms. Thrush in newborns and infants can occur at any time. It is important to know what you are looking for.
What is Thrush in Babies?
Thrush is a yeast infection that can cause patches of white in your baby’s mouth and his the tongue. Babies often get thrush when a yeast called Candida, grows out of control because baby’s immune system is not yet mature enough to control the growth of yeast.
Signs and Symptoms of Thrush While Breastfeeding:
Most breastfeeding moms don’t recognize thrush right away. They may know something is not right, but often blame it on cracked nipples or a fussy baby when it is really thrush. It is important to know the signs and symptoms so you don’t delay treatment.
Here is a listing of some common signs and symptoms that may indicate that you or your baby may have a problem with yeast:
Signs of Nipple Thrush in Moms:
- strong nipple or breast pain that lasts throughout each feeding
- sudden nipple pain after a painless nursing
- sore cracked nipples
- itchy and/or burning nipples
- shooting pains in your breasts during or after a nursing session (if the yeast has entered the breast milk ducts.)
- a vaginal yeast infection
Thrush in Babies:
- Spotty diaper rash that is not responding to normal diaper rash ointments.
- Oral thrush in babies appear as small white spots inside of your baby’s mouth or on the tongue (this over-the-counter medication is VERY effective!)
- Refusal or reluctance to breastfeed
- Clicking sound while breastfeeding
Does Thrush Affect Milk Supply?
Thrush may actually reduce your breast milk supply. It may also become more difficult to breastfeed because of the painful symptoms of oral thrush for your baby and nipple thrush for mom.
Can I Breastfeed with Thrush?
You can and should keep breastfeeding with thrush. You may even have to bring your baby to the breast more often because he or she may resist nursing because of the oral thrush baby that they may experience while trying to breastfeed with thrush in baby’s mouth.
Can I Express Milk While Breastfeeding?
Expressing breast milk while you have a nipple thrush and giving it to your baby is not a problem as long as you are both actively being treated. What you don’t want to do is to keep passing the yeast infection back and forth by only treating one of you at a time.
However, storing milk for later by freezing it might cause a later outbreak. There are currently no studies to prove that this can happen but we do know that freezing milk does not kill the bacteria ( (Riordan 2015, Breastfeeding and Human Lactation) so you could potentially infect your baby again later through the frozen milk.
If You Think You Have Thrush… Get Yeast Infection Treatment While Breastfeeding Soon!
While there are some over-the counter medications that can help, we would recommend calling your doctor, because both you and your baby will both need to be treated. Breastfeeding moms and babies will pass a yeast infection back and forth between them.
Even if you or baby do not seem to be affected by thrush symptoms, if one of you has it, both of you should be treated. This is very important so that the infection does not continue to be passed back and forth between the two of you.
Thrush treatment should continue for 1 – 2 weeks after all signs of the infection have gone. This will prevent a stronger variety from appearing after treatment has finished. (Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol. 2008)
Depending on the symptoms of the infection, you may need to take systemic treatments instead of topical treatments. An example would be if you have shooting or stabbing pains through the breast… which means the infection is in your milk ducts. Topical treatments rarely penetrate deep enough to clear up these types of infections.
Safe Treatments for Thrush While Breastfeeding
All of the following remedies are considered safe for breastfeeding moms and do not require that you stop nursing. It is important that the doctor prescribes a treatment that is compatible with breastfeeding:
- Nystatin — Nystatin is an antibiotic that is available as drops, pills and cream. Some thrush infections are resistant to Nystatin, so some physicians are beginning with other treatments first.
- Monistat — Over the counter anti-fungal medications like Monistat might work. Just make sure the excess is cleaned off before nursing. If diaper rash responds quickly to a medication like this, it is a good sign that it is yeast-based.
- Acidophilus — Acidophilus is a good bacteria that normally keeps yeast in control. Even if you are taking antibiotics, adding acidophilus is a good idea to repopulate the good bacteria in the body. If you have a minor yeast infection and are willing for the healing process to take a little longer, adding acidophilus as a supplement can be a good solution. This can be given to the baby as well.
- Garlic — Adding garlic to your diet will knock the yeast out quickly. Take it during the infection and for 1 – 2 weeks after it is gone on a daily basis.
- Grapefruit Seed Extract — Make a mixture of 10 drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract to one ounce of water. Use this mixture with an cotton swab on mom’s nipples and baby’s mouth every hour that baby is awake. Moms also may take capsules to get rid of the systematic yeast as well.
- Echinacea — Echinacea is also a good remedy for thrush. Follow instructions on the bottle and continue treatment for up to 2 weeks after all symptoms vanish.
- Vinegar — Vinegar (we think this one works best!) acidifies the environment, making it uninhabitable for yeast. Wash off the nipples, then wipe with a vinegar rinse solution of half vinegar, half water. This is also effective for diaper rashes due to thrush.
- Dr. Jack Newman’s Nipple Ointment — There is an all purpose nipple ointment developed by Dr. Jack Newman that can be effective for thrush infections. This ointment needs to be compounded by the pharmacist, so your physician will have to call it in so the right ingredients are mixed in the right proportions. To make this ointment, you need 15 grams of Nystatin (100,000 units/ml), 15 grams of 0.1% Betamethasone, 15 grams of 2% Mupirocin ointment and 15 grams of 10% Clotrimazole.
- Gentian Violet — Gentian Violet was a traditional thrush treatment, but antibiotics made it go out of favor. Today, with some resistant yeast strains, Gentian Violet is once again becoming a popular and effective natural alternative (Bethesda MD, 2006). It can be safely used on the nipples and in baby’s mouth. However, it does stain anything it touches blue or purple…so be careful!
- Diflucan: — Diflucan is usually very effective against yeast especially when used in conjunction with any of the topical treatments previously discussed. For more information, see our Diflucan information page.
Watch for recurring infections and see your doctor if thrush continues. It is important to get this infection under control.
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