Q&A: How do I prevent thrush?
My breastfed baby and I keep getting thrush. What can I do to stop the cycle?
Thrush, also known as yeast or candidiasis, is a fungal infection that happens when there is over-production of the candida organism. Yeast, or candida, is a normally occurring resident in your body and is found in the mouth, vagina, and intestinal tract. Yeast loves moist, warm conditions, which can sometimes pose a problem for breastfeeding moms.
Symptoms of Thrush
The symptoms of thrush in a breastfeeding mother include:
- burning or pain in nipple and area (while nursing or between feeds)
- pink, shiny appearance of the nipples, sometimes accompanied by itching or flaking
- a vaginal yeast infection
Your baby may also have thrush if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- white, pearly patches in the mouth
- bright red diaper rash
- fussiness during feeds
It is important to note that for some women the only symptom of thrush may be pain, and these other classic symptoms may not be present. Working with a lactation consultant to rule out other problems can help as well.
Thrush may be difficult to get rid of and can often take several weeks of treatment and preventative measures. Once it has been determined by your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant that thrush is the reason for discomfort, you and your healthcare provider will outline a plan of attack.
The best way to get rid of thrush is consistent, concurrent (involving both you and your baby), and careful treatment. Relief from symptoms should be evident after several days of treatment.
How to Get Rid of Thrush
- Wash hands carefully and frequently (this goes for all family members!)
- Limit your intake of processed sugars (yeast loves sugar)
- Change your nursing pads with each feed or when wet
- Wash your bras and clothing in hot water
- Boil pacifiers, bottle nipples, cups, teething rings, and breast pump parts (anything that comes into contact with your breast or the baby’s mouth) for 20 minutes each day
- Try a vinegar rinse after each feeding (one tablespoon vinegar to one cup water); apply it to your nipples with a cotton ball and allow to air dry
If recommended by your or Baby’s healthcare provider, consider these thrush treatments:
- Take acidophilus, which contains helpful bacteria, as a supplement to help regulate the yeast in your digestive tract (look for it in the refrigerated section of your local healthfood store)
- Take or apply a prescription ointment (such as nystatin) as directed
- Administer drops (micanazole) to baby as directed by your pediatrician
- If an oral medication is needed (fluconazole) for a stubborn infection, take the medicine until all pills are gone
- Try taking grapefruit seed extract, which has shown great success in treating thrush (check with a lactation consultant for the protocol)
If symptoms do not improve after several days of medication, contact your healthcare provider for guidance. Stick with the plan, and you and your baby should be back to a comfortable breastfeeding experience in no time.