Thrush symptoms & Treatment

Thrush and Breastfeeding

What is thrush?

Thrush or Candidiasis is a yeast infection. The infection is caused by Candida albicans, which is an organism. This organism is naturally found in the urinary tract, the gut and even on the skin. In some situations, this organism may overgrow, causing thrush symptoms to appear.

A breastfeeding thrush yeast infection may appear on the skin of the breasts, inside the breast ducts and also inside baby’s mouth and on baby’s bottom.

Is thrush contagious?

Yes, yeast infection is contagious. Mom may also be suffering from a vaginal yeast infection. (dad and baby may have yeast infection without any visible symptoms) It is important that all three get treated for thrush so that they do not keep re-infecting each other.

Items that have been touched such as artificial nipples, pacifiers or anything else baby has had in the mouth (again, baby does not always show symptoms) or mom has had near her breasts or vagina, needs to be sterilized to kill the yeast and prevent re-infection.

Symptoms of Thrush

• A sudden onset of symptoms after breastfeeding without problems before.

• Deep burning pain inside the breast and/or on the skin of the breast.

• Pain during a breastfeeding session, which does not subside while baby is breastfeeding; even if the latch and positioning are fine.

• Itching on the nipple, areolae and skin of the breast.

• Pink or red colour to the nipples and/or areolae.

• There might be a slight shine to the nipples and areolae.

• The skin on the breasts, nipples and areolae may seem flaky.

• There may be white spots on the nipples or inside baby’s mouth.

• A shooting pain inside the breast during or after feedings.

• Cracked nipples that are struggling to heal.

• Aching feeling in the shoulders or shooting pain in the upper back.

• A vaginal yeast infection; vaginal thrush symptoms include itching, discharge and strange odor.

Diaper rash or spots on baby’s bum.

• Thrush in infants may cause fussiness and breast refusal.

What increases your risk of getting thrush? What causes thrush?

Antibiotics are one of the leading causes of thrush in moms who have had a c-section or women who were given antibiotics in labor; to combat group B streptococcus. These antibiotics kill both the good and bad bacteria, which causes a yeast overgrowth.

• Moms who have a history of vaginal yeast infections, may be at higher risk of yeast infections while breastfeeding.

• Moms, who have diabetes, are at higher risk of yeast infections in general.

• Moms, who have open cracks in their nipples, are at greater risk.

• Mom needs to keep her nipples dry. Wearing wet clothing or damp nursing pads for long periods of time can increase risk of thrush.

• The use of pacifiers can increase the risk of thrush.

• Douching or the use of antibacterial soaps can increase thrush risk, because it interferes with the body’s natural flora.

• A mom who is sick with the flu, or who has any impaired immune function ( Infection or Anemia ) may be at increased risk of thrush.

• A mom who is malnourished, especially who is deficient in vitamin A, B, C and K, Iron and Folic acid.

• Moms who consume large amounts of dairy, sugar or artificial sweeteners are also more prone to yeast infections.

• The use of the pill (oral contraceptives) that contain Estrogen, can increase risk.

• The use of Corticosteroids, such as those used for asthma.

Medication for Thrush Treatment & home remedies for thrush

• A doctor can prescribe oral and/or topical antifungals. Mom and baby should be treated together. Baby’s bottom, should also be treated. Some drugs often given include: Lotrimin, Mycelex, Diflucan, Nizoral and Monistat.

• A reliable home remedy for thrush is Gentian violet (0.5% solution), which can be found as an over-the-counter antifungal. It can be applied inside baby’s mouth as well as on the breasts. Gentian violet for thrush can cause the skin to redden and peel, this is normal. Mom should use old clothing as the gentian violet makes bad stains.

• Eat plenty of plain yogurts that contain added live cultures. The yogurt can also be smeared on the infected areas. Make sure you do not use yogurt with sugar, in it when treating thrush .

• Mom can take acidophilus supplements. Should contain 40 million viable units, in each supplement; taken during the infection, and for two weeks afterwards.

• Grapefruit seed extract can be taken three times per day. 250mg tablets.

• You can also have a special thrush cream mixed. Read more on this here.

Other treatment for Thrush infection and tips

• Thrush symptoms often get worse with treatment before they improve.

• Mom should continue to breastfeed while she and/or baby have thrush.

• Mom and baby’s hands should be washed more regularly during an infection.

• Any pacifiers, feeding equipment and clothing used during this time, should be boiled for 20 minutes to kill the yeast. This should be done daily. The clothing should be washed separately with 20 drops of grapefruit seed extract added to the rinse cycle.

• Get rid of wet breast pads as soon as they get damp.

• Mom should keep her breast dry. Air-dry the breasts after a breastfeeding session.

• She should avoid eating anything containing sugar, yeast, fungus or dairy. Yeast thrives on these foods.

Top of thrush symptoms page

Other pages on breastfeeding-problems in connection with this page

Infant thrush:
* Thrush diaper rash
* Mouth thrush (thrush mouth symptoms)

Share your experience with different thrush treatments…

Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)


Course information on lactation physiology / breastfeeding problems / thrush.

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