Thrush and Breastfeeding
by Susie Hamilton
Breast Pumps Direct
Thrush, also known as candida albicans, is a very common and relatively harmless overgrowth of yeast that can become present in your babies mouth and diaper area. Though we all have a certain amount of yeast present in our bodies at all times, occasionally it can grow and spread in the moist, warm areas of your body and cause an infection. Thrush occurs when your body is out of balance perhaps due to a recent illness, the use of antibiotics or pregnancy. In women, it is commonly referred to as a yeast infection in the vaginal area.
You may suspect that your baby has thrush if you notice:
- Redness and spotting in the genital area, often more prevalent toward the front rather than on the buttocks. This rash will not respond to your typical diaper rash ointment and can only be treated topically with a prescribed ointment by your physician, most often Nystatin.
- White spots or film along the inside of his cheeks, gums, tongue and throat. If the infection has gotten bad these could be very painful, so be careful when touching or checking out the inside of his mouth. Do not try to wipe out the whiteness as it could cause your baby pain and bleeding.
- Resistance to breastfeeding and/ or sucking on a nipple of any kind. The sucking motion can be painful causing your baby to pull away or flat refuse to nurse.
- You may notice you baby is now making a clicking noise when he nurses because he is releasing his suction with each suck due to discomfort.
It's possible there could be no symptoms present in your baby but if you suspect yeast over growth in your own body due to the following symptoms you may want to seek treatment for you both.
- Nipple or breast pain- sore, itching nipples and/or shooting pain while nursing. This means that your milk ducts are overcome with yeast.
- Cracked nipples or a crack resembling a cut that is resistant to healing.
- White fungus in the folds of your nipples or breast.
- Vaginal Yeast infection.
The goal when treating thrush in you and your baby is to level out the amount of yeast present in your system. Just to kill the yeast where it is present does not affect the rate at which it is being produced continually in your body. You will need to attempt to balance your systems through diet, medicinals and upkeep. Once your yeast is under control you should maintain your treatment for about two weeks to keep your body balanced.
Treatments for your baby in conjunction with a diet low in sugar, product sterilization and good hygiene are as follows:
- Prescription treatments from your doctor may include Nystatin in liquid and ointment form for mouth and diaper area. Clotrimazole and Fluconazole both in liquid form and given daily as prescribed. Oral suspension with a dropper may work best for your baby but if possible, dispense the liquid into a small cup and use a cotton swab or q-tip to coat the infection. After yeast is killed, it only takes 90 minutes for it to grow back. You can cut your prescribed dosages back to dispense the prescribed amount throughout the day at this rate.
- Acidophilus bifidus capsules can be broken open and the powder given to your baby daily to aid in balancing out his digestion. You can break open a capsule into your baby’s food to help disguise the taste but usually babies do not mind it too much. Also, you could find an airtight container (an empty glass baby food jar is perfect) and empty a few capsules into it. A few times a day simply wet your finger and let your baby suck it off for ingestion.
- Diaper area yeast infections can be treated with a vinegar/water rinse on your baby’s bottom each time he is changed. Do this instead of using your regular baby wipe. Recipe is 1 tsp of white distilled vinegar and 1 cup of water. After applying, allow your baby’s bottom to air dry before putting him in a new diaper.
- You can also apply an anti fungal cream after each changing.
- Change diapers frequently so that moisture does not sit on his bottom for long periods of time.
A few helpful tips while treating you and baby for thrush are:
- Wash hands frequently and dry with a paper towel then discard.
- Keep your babies hands clean, especially if he likes to put them in his mouth!
- Boil or sterilize any nipple or plastic that could have come into contact with the thrush at the end of each day. Boil for at least 20 minutes to kill germs. Sterilization with a machine such as the Avent Express II Microwave Steam Sterilizer can save you precious time by killing germs within a couple of minutes for all plastic parts.
- Wash all cloth toys, towels and clothing that have been put into your baby’s mouth in hot water. Sun drying what you can is the best drying option.
- Use paper towels to dry hands, mouth and bottom. Throw them away after each use.
Treatment for mother follows many of the same guidelines as for your baby. Be sure to cut back on your sugar and dairy intake. In addition, garlic supplements, lots of water and taking 2 acidophilus capsules three times a day can readily speed up your healing process. There are several over-the-counter medications that you should use to fight the infection in your system such as Monistat 7 or its generic counterpart.
Once you are both on your way to ridding the extra yeast in your systems, be sure to continue efforts with supplements and hygiene for at least two weeks.
If you are experiencing nipple irritation or breast pain but there are no other symptoms of yeast infection in you or your baby, you could have mastitis or some other breast infection. Symptoms resemble each other however; with mastitis, you will run low-high temperature depending on severity of infection. Both require aggressive treatment from the onset to inhibit further growth and discomfort. Experiencing the symptoms of thrush can become recurring if the proper nutrition intake is not maintained for at least a week (or two) after the symptoms cease. It is not uncommon for a baby and mother to pass it back and forth to one another if both are not treated simultaneously. Do not get discouraged because with proper treatment this too shall pass. A bout with thrush should not stear you to weaning your baby. If you feel you are ready to begin weaning, it is important to educate yourself on the process. Please read our article Weaning:Helping Your Baby off of the Breast for some healthy tips on how to wean safely and effectively.