Thrush and Breastfeeding
This page will discuss thrush and breastfeeding tips, plus advice and natural cures.
What is Thrush?
Thrush is a yeast infection. Yeast is a normal part of everyone's digestive system, but when there is an overgrowth, a thrush infection sets in.
A fungus that feeds on milk
(Candida Albicans) finds a way inside the cracked nipples, and into a Mom’s
milk duct, which can then also be transferred into Baby's mouth; causing oral thrush.
Thrush causes sore nipples and can cause pain inside your breasts.
Thrush in babies (oral thrush) can cause a sore throat and tongue.
Sometimes it can also cause red, sore skin in the diaper area (diaper rash), along with irritability and excessive gas. Here is a page on how to handle yeast diaper rashes.
Mom and Baby need to get treatment for thrush together, even if one of them does not show any symptoms of thrush. Otherwise, they may pass the infection back and forth to eachother.
Thrush and Breastfeeding
Causes of Thrush
- Mothers who have a history of vaginal yeast infections, are more susceptible to a yeast infection while breastfeeding, than others.
- Anemia in the mom, also increases her risk factor.
- Pacifiers used by your baby, put your baby at a higher risk for oral yeast infection (thrush in mouth)
- Diabetes in Mom...
Read more about breastfeeding with diabetes.
- Antibiotics taken during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding, can increase the risk of breast infections like thrush.
- Antibiotics given to Baby, can also increase the risk of a thrush infection.
- Long-term use of steroids, can increase thrush risk.
- Cracked or bleeding nipples, allow for the entrance of the fungus, causing breastfeeding thrush.
- Oral contraceptives containing estrogen, increases the risk.
- Damp nursing pads or bras that are kept against the skin for too long, promote the growth of yeast.
- Using plastic lined nursing pads, can restrict air flow and cause an infection.
Thrush and Breastfeeding
Foods to Avoid
Mushrooms, Pickled vegetables and fruits, Deep fried foods, Monosodium glutamate, Smoked fish and meat, Dried fruits, Yeast products like bread, Sweets, Beer, wine and sodas.
The Symptoms of Thrush
Symptoms of Thrush in Mom:
Extreme nipple or breast pain: Sometimes a sharp shooting breastfeeding
pain, may radiate from the nipple, into the breast or into the back and/or arm.
- Cracked nipples.
- A decrease in milk supply.
- Nipples that are itchy and/or burning and that may look red, shiny, or flaky and/or have a rash and small blisters.
- A vaginal yeast infection (vaginal thrush).
- Sores at the corners of the mouth (angular chelitis).
- A rash in the moist areas of the body, such as under the arms or in the groin area.
Thrush Symptoms in Infants:
- Yeast Diaper rash.
- A reluctance to nurse, due to Baby's mouth being sore.
Creamy white patches inside the mouth, along the inside of the gums,
inside the cheeks, roof of mouth, throat and/or on the tongue.
- Infant thrush also causes gas in babies.
Read more on infant oral thrush here.
Cure for Thrush & Natural Remedies for Thrush
If the yeast infection is inside the breast, and not just on the nipple, an oral medication will be needed.
Candida treatment usually takes 2-3 days to clear all symptoms.
Tea tree oil:
Use a couple of drops of pure tea tree oil, mixed with coconut oil or olive oil, and apply to the nipples after each feeding. Mom needs to make sure that she washes her nipples before breastfeeding Baby again.
Apple Cider Vinegar:
After each feeding, you can dab a few drops of raw, apple cider vinegar around the nipples.
Nystatin drops for the baby's mouth. A cotton swab may be used, to apply
the medication to the mouth, being careful not to insert a swab back
into the bottle that has touched Baby's mouth.
The medication is given
after all daytime feedings.
For Mom, Nystatin cream will be
given first. It is rubbed into the nipples and areola after every
feeding. The cream does not need to be washed off before nursing.
Nystatin pills are sometimes suggested if symptoms still continue.
Garlic is known to be a potent
yeast fighter. Add 4-6 capsules of odorless garlic to your diet during a
yeast outbreak and for 1-2 weeks after all thrush symptoms are gone.
Aloe Vera gel:
Apply to the affected area for relief
Echinacea is an immune system boosting herb, to be taken by Mom.
Yeast cannot live in acidic surroundings.
You can use vinegar to rinse off your nipples and Baby’s bottom if necessary.
a half water, half vinegar mixture. Use a squirt bottle and squirt the
vinegar solution on Baby’s bottom before closing the diaper. This can be
used in the same way if Mom has a vaginal thrush infection.
Gentian Violet can be used on the nipple area by painting the
nipples and areola once a day, at night. (Very helpful with nipple
Gentian Violet may also be used to paint Baby's mouth.
It stains clothing, so dress Baby and yourself in clothing that can be bleached or that you can throw away.
Grapefruit Seed Extract:
This treatment consists of the mother taking a 250 mg capsule orally three times a day.
Thrush and Breastfeeding
During the infection
- Continue to breastfeed.
- Care for your breast and nipples for pain (Read more about nipple pain)
- Do not rub breast milk into your nipples, while you have a yeast infection (yeast thrives on milk)
- Eat less foods containing high amounts of sugar and/or yeast.
- Wash all clothing that comes in contact with the breast milk, with a cup of vinegar.
- Do not freeze your milk during a yeast infection, the yeast is not killed by the cold.
- Pump if your breasts are too sore to breastfeed, but make sure that you use a professional grade pump like Medela lactina or Medela pump in style to keep your milk supply up.
- Take ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) for pain relief.
- Try drinking decaffeinated green tea three or four times a day. It will help in boosting your immune system.
- All things that come in contact with breast milk during yeast treatment, should be boiled for 20 minutes every day. (Toys that were in Baby’s mouth, bottles etc.)
- If you have developed a vaginal infection as well, you should try to only wear cotton panties and should rinse the area with the vinegar and water solution every time you go to the bathroom.
- A supplement called Lactobacillus acidophilus helps promote the growth of "friendly bacteria". This can be given to Baby too.
Thrush and Breastfeeding - Prevention
- The best prevention of thrush is a good diet, a healthy immune system and a healthy intestinal tract.
- Wash your hands often and use a throw away towel (paper towels.) for drying your breasts and hands.
- Inadequate rest and stress can lead to your body being more acceptable to thrush.
- Nursing pads should be replaced as soon as they become damp.
- Your nipples should always be washed with cool water and then air dried after every feeding.
- If either you or your baby has thrush, you can apply pure, raw, virgin coconut oil to your nipples and to Baby’s mouth to help avoid passing the yeast back and forth.
Moms feel that they want to give up on breastfeeding, after a while, due
to the many different difficulties they might be experiencing during
breastfeeding, but can I please encourage you to read our page on the benefits of breastfeeding, not just for your baby, but for your sake too.
Other pages on "breastfeeding problems" in connection with thrush and breastfeeding
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Site by BFeeding Mamma, Tracy Behr. Currently studying through Child birth International (CBC, CBD). Also an accomplished author and Mommy of two.