Breast milk is what’s best for a baby but getting it doesn’t come without challenges like thrush breastfeeding. Thrush is a common yeast infection babies can get and then transfer to a breastfeeding mother. Once infected, mom and baby need medical treatment to end the infection otherwise it just bounces around from mother to child. Left untreated, thrush can put other people in the house at risk for infection, as well, and lead to painful or impossible breastfeeding. The best protection against oral thrush in babies is education. Consider some frequently asked questions about this condition.
Thrush Breastfeeding | What You Need To Know
In This Article:
Thrush Symptoms You Should Know
This post may contain affiliate links. For my full disclosure policy click here.
At first, there may be no symptoms of infection except the baby can fuss during feeding and refuse the nipple or a bottle. This is the baby’s way of trying to tell you that his or her mouth hurts even though you can’t see a problem.
In fact, mothers might notice the symptoms on themselves before they see them on the baby. An infant who breastfeeds with oral thrush will infect the mother’s nipples. When that happens, the nipples become:
- Bright red
Mothers with thrush on their nipples can also develop a vaginal yeast infection and may notice shooting breast pain during and after feeding. The nipples and surrounding areola can swell and develop small blisters or white patches, too.
When the condition shows up in the baby, expect to see:
- White patches in the mouth
- A white coating on the tongue
Some babies get serious diaper rash when they have thrush. The rash is a sign that the yeast infection has traveled to the baby’s bottom, as well.
What Causes Breastfeeding Thrush?
It is normal for the human body to carry some yeast but it is usually kept in check by other microbes, creating a balance between good and bad organisms. A yeast infection like thrush indicates that balance is out of whack and the yeast has overgrown the protective “good” bacteria.
Mothers tend to get vaginal yeast infections during pregnancy, sometimes without even realizing it. The overabundance of yeast in the birth canal exposes the baby to the infection during a normal birth.
Taking antibiotics can reduce the number of good bacteria in the mother, allowing the yeast to grow to dangerous levels. Some mothers must take an antibiotic after a Cesarean section, for example, and that leads to an infection that the baby gets while breastfeeding.
Babies will occasionally take antibiotics, too, for ear infections or another medical problem. They give yeast to the mother as they breastfeed.
The other option is the mother gets a yeast infection in the breast for some other reason such as she has a vaginal yeast infection that moves to the nipples. Leaky, wet nipples can promote yeast growth, too.
What is the Thrush Breastfeeding Treatment?
A thrush infection is rarely a problem for a healthy adult or baby but it does require treatment. In most cases that means an antifungal medication such as Nystatin for breastfeeding mothers. A very mild antifungal prescription medication like a Nystatin oral suspension applied to the baby’s mouth eliminates the yeast there. The combination of the two prevents mom and baby from reinfecting each other.
Some mothers use a one percent solution of gentian violet, a dye available at drug stores, to treat oral thrush in babies. Just coat the baby’s mouth with the solution once or twice a day for three days to see if the infection disappears. Gentian violet is a dye, so it’s best to undress the baby before applying it. The dye may transfer to the nipple during breastfeeding, too.
Take the time to wash all the baby’s items when treating for thrush, as well. This includes pacifiers and anything else they put in their mouth to prevent recurrence.
What Can Mom Do for Thrush Breast Pain Relief?
Getting medication for mom and baby is the first step in relieving breast pain associated with thrush. Treat the shooting pain in the breasts with an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen. Make sure to ask your doctor what kind of pain reliever is best for you and the baby.
Take steps to keep your nipples clean and dry, too, such as:
- Washing your breasts after you feed. You can use fresh water or try a one part white vinegar four parts water solution. Let them air dry before putting back on a bra or top.
- If you wear breast pads, makes sure to change them often. The kind of yeast associated with thrush feeds on milk, so a wet pad promotes growth.
- Keep your nursing bra clean and change it if it gets wet. When you do laundry, wash the bras and anything else that touches your breasts like pajamas and sheets in hot water and bleach.
- Take steps to keep clothing from rubbing on your nipples and irritating them further, too. You can try wearing a breast shell, a silicone piece that covers the nipple to protect it.
Is Thrush Bad for Babies?
Thrush is an infection but a relatively harmless one. It is irritating, though, so it can lead to sore mouths and bottoms. It can also make the baby so uncomfortable that feeding becomes impossible and that can lead to failure to thrive in extreme cases.
The biggest danger, though, is just the relentless passing of the infection back and forth between mother and baby. That will take a toll over time.
Is Thrush Contagious?
Thrush is very contagious, especially between mother and child. It can also be passed to other members of the family. It represents an extreme danger to someone who is immunocompromised from an illness or treatment like chemotherapy. A person with a weakened immune system can develop thrush in the throat and other parts of the body.
Women who get vaginal yeast infections can pass them on to a husband during sex, as well. She could give it to the next baby, too, if it is left untreated.
Can Thrush Cause a Fever?
Fever is not a common symptom of thrush, but it is an infection, so it’s possible. Fever is the body’s way of fighting infection. If the mother or baby is running a fever, there may be a secondary cause for it. For example, a bacterial infection in an open area or even in a breast. You should consider the fever a sign that you need to call the doctor as soon as possible.
Can Thrush Be Scraped Off?
A white film on the tongue is a symptom of oral thrush. While it is possible to scrap that film off, it might be uncomfortable. Most likely under the film are sores and open areas. Scraping the thrush is not a cure, so it won’t go away if you do. The best option is the treat the infection and not try to scrap it off.
Can Thrush Cause a Cough?
A persistent cough is probably caused by something other than thrush such as:
- Post-nasal drip
- Acid reflux
- Respiratory infection
It is possible for thrush to travel to the throat and that would likely lead to a cough but it’s not common unless you are immunocompromised in some way.
Check out some more information about thrush breastfeeding from this video by DIY Breastfeeding:
The best treatment for thrush associated with breastfeeding is prevention. Sterilize nipples and pacifiers regularly. Practice good hand washing hygiene and keep your nipples dry and clean. If thrush does appear, treat it fast to keep it from becoming a chronic problem.
Have you ever dealt with yeast infections before? Share with us what to expect about thrush breastfeeding and how you handled it.