Thrush and Breastfeeding

The fungal infection candida albicans, or thrush, can be a problem for both mother and child during breastfeeding. If your baby has thrush, breastfeeding can be extremely painful and the mother’s nipples can become infected. Both of you should be treated since you will continue to pass the infection back and forth if you only get treatment for one of you. If you suspect you and your baby have thrush, be sure to consult your healthcare provider. Below are the causes and signs of thrush, breastfeeding problems it causes and how to treat this condition. 

Thrush and Breastfeeding

1. What Causes Thrush?

The fungus that causes thrush is normally found in your body. When the bacterium that controls the fungus does not do its job, a thrush infection can be the result. As with most fungi, the candida albicans fungus lives in warm, moist environments – like a baby’s mouth! When the baby nurses, the fungus can be deposited on the mother’s nipple resulting in infection there. As antibiotic use becomes more widespread and important bacteria are killed off, the environment becomes perfect for the development of thrush.

2. What Are the Signs of Thrush?

Signs of thrush will depend on who you are looking at since the signs in the mother and baby are different.

  • Signs in mother

Usually, the signs for the mother will be a sudden change. You may have been breastfeeding for some time without problems and suddenly symptoms begin. Typically, the first sign of thrush in the mother will be cracked, sore nipples that may start as pink or red and eventually develop patches of white. The pain associated with thrush is typically intense and does not go away when breastfeeding stops.

  • Signs in baby

You should be suspicious that your baby might have thrush if you see white patches in his mouth. Removing the white patches may result in bleeding in the mouth. You might find that your baby stops wanting to feed or that his nursing time may be much shorter than normal due to the pain. Your baby may develop a diaper rash as the fungus moves through his system. Click here to learn more about thrush in babies. 

3. What Should You Do About It?

If you suspect you and/or your baby has thrush, be sure to get in touch with your healthcare provider. Your doctor may want to wait and see if the infection clears on its own, but if one or both of you are very uncomfortable, your doctor may choose to put you both on a treatment path that should cure the infection within a few days. Your doctor will probably prescribe an antifungal cream to use on your nipples. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen can help with your discomfort while you are being treated. Occasionally, a topical cream will not cure the fungus and your provider may prescribe an oral antifungal medication.

The baby’s physician will probably give you Nystatin liquid medication that you will apply to the white patches in the mouth for ten days. Use this medicine after breastfeeding so it stays in contact with the sores for as long as possible. If your baby with thrush also develops a diaper rash, your healthcare provider can prescribe a topical cream to apply to that area. If both of you are not much better within 7 days, contact your healthcare provider.

4. Can You Breastfeed with Thrush?

While having thrush, breastfeeding may be painful for you and the baby, but you CAN continue to breastfeed as both of you are being treated for the fungus. When the thrush is gone, be sure to dispose of any breast milk you might have stored during the outbreak since it is likely that it will contain some of the fungus. This can cause re-infection in both of you.

For more information and tips on breastfeeding with thrush, watch the video at: