“Why my baby refuses to nurse and can’t stop crying while breastfeeding? Why my nipples or breasts sore and baby has white patches in his mouth?” It sounds like thrush breastfeeding. Here is what you need to know.
Not only is thrush a common problem for breastfeeding mothers, it also affects their babies in a negative manner. Thrush is a yeast infection, typically called a fungal infection, that can develop on your breasts as well as your baby’s mouth. Thankfully, thrush while breastfeeding is rarely severe, but it can be tough to kick.
The first time I had thrush during breastfeeding was with my second child. We were three weeks into breastfeeding after birth, and my nipple began feeling hot. What’s more, I noticed my son had this white rash on his tongue. I called the doctor immediately, and after a few days and a bottle of medication, the thrush was on its way out the door, but not before I shed several tears.
Thrush is an infection that develops on your nipples and spreads to your baby’s mouth. It can get in the way of a successful breastfeeding relationship due to the discomfort that it causes while nursing for mom and baby. Said infection can be painful, so you may be tempted to stop breastfeeding. Plus, since it’s in your baby’s mouth, he may refuse to nurse.
What Causes Thrush?
Thrush is a fungal infection that is caused by an overgrowth of an organism called Candida, which is the same infection that causes yeast diaper rashes. Candida loves warm and moist locations, so the fungus picks areas like the gut, vagina, diaper region, and skin. Candida Albicans is a strain that feeds on milk, and it loves to find its way into cracked nipples, moving throughout the mother’s milk duct.
Some women are more prone to developing thrush than others. If you have frequent yeast infections, it indicates that you might have an imbalance of hormones or an excess of sugar in your diet. This then allows Candida to take over.
Other risk factors for developing thrush include:
Symptoms of Thrush While Breastfeeding
Thrush can appear on your breasts, your baby’s mouth, or both. If breastfeeding goes from being comfortable to suddenly painful, or your baby starts to refuse to breastfeed, you might have thrush.
Here are other signs of thrush breastfeeding.
Is thrush contagious?
A fungal infection is not considered contagious. So thrush is usually considered not to be contagious. But one major exception instance where the fungus can be passed back and forth is between infant and mother. After your infant develops thrush in the mouth and may transfer it to the nipples. Conversely, a Candida albicans yeast infection on your nipples and transfer the infection to your baby during breastfeeding.
While thrush is not contagious airborne, but it is contagious through sharing toys or pacifiers. Thrush transferred through the yeast on the toys/pacifiers after being in the babies mouth. So attention to your other babies.
Is it safe to keep breastfeeding with thrush?
If you feel as though you might have thrush, you might be concerned about the safety of breastfeeding from here on. It’s normal to be worried that you might spread the infection to your baby or that breastfeeding might make it even worse. However, by the time you’ve been diagnosed with it, your baby most probably has already been exposed, and more than likely, has it as well.
Do not worry, as it is entirely safe to continue to breastfeed with thrush. It might come with a few issues, though. The biggest problem therefore is that thrush can make it painful for your baby or even for you. Some babies might even become fussy and refuse to breastfeed.
Don’t Store Expressed Milk!
It’s safe to breastfeed with thrush, but expressing milk is a different story. You shouldn’t collect your breast milk for storage if you have thrush. Candida can live in breast milk, and the freezer won’t kill it. So, your baby would be re-exposed to the bacteria, and it might cause another occurrence of the infection.(source)
You need to wait until you’ve finished any medication that your doctor might have given you and no longer have any signs of thrush before you decide to express milk again.
How to Treat Thrush While Breastfeeding?
Regardless of how safe breastfeeding with thrush can be the best course of action would still be to get it off your system. Candida grows and spreads rapidly, and it can be hard to control. It can even be contagious, thereby leading to you potentially harming your family members.
1. Clean Your Breasts
Throughout the infection, keep your breasts and nipples clean and dry. You should rinse off your nipples after each time you breastfeed. You can use warm water and soap or use a 1:4 water-vinegar solution. It won’t burn!
If you prefer to treat thrush naturally, you can try using tea tree oil diluted in coconut oil. Apply to your breasts after each feeding, but be sure to wash your nipples very well before you breastfeed again. Tea tree oil isn’t safe for babies to consume.
2. Wash Your Baby’s Items
Yeast is, and literally can be, a pain in the butt. You need to clean off all baby items that might have either come in contact with your breasts or that your baby put in his mouth when he was infected. You can either boil the toys or use hot, soapy water to disinfect.
3. Give Your Nipples Air Time
When your baby has a yeast diaper rash, giving your baby’s bum some air time is essential. If you have thrush, then you need to try to give your breasts some air time as well. Expose your breast to the air several times per day.
4. Change Breast Pads Often
Wet breast pads are a breeding ground for fungal. Yeast loves warm and moist areas, which sounds just like breast pads kept in your bra. Change your breast pads often throughout the day to eliminate possible yeast growth.
5. Try a Probiotic
Probiotics are good bacteria, and you need good bacteria in your gut to help combat the Candida in your system.
6. Garlic Supplements
Garlic is known for its antibiotic and antifungal properties, so it’s a tremendous potent fighter against yeast. To treat your thrush, take 4-6 garlic capsules throughout the day for 1-2 weeks. It should clear it up quickly without the need to turn to medication.
7. Reduce Sugar in Your Diet
Yeast loves sugar, so taking the sugar out of your diet helps to treat thrush. It can help you get rid of the infection faster. Try to avoid sugary drinks, candy, and more.
8. Try a Breast Shell
Nipples are typically sore while breastfeeding. To help get rid of the soreness, wear a breast shell to protect your nipples from rubbing onto your shirt. Trust me, rubbing nipples against a shirt hurts, and a breast shell feels so much better.
9. Wear Cotton Bras and Shirts
Cotton is more breathable than other fabrics, and more airflow helps get rid of the yeast. Keep your nursing bras and shirts clean and dry. Change your bra if it gets wet. Make sure that you’re cleaning your bras and shirts in hot water to kill off any bacteria that might live on the fabric.
10. Use Gentian Violet
Perhaps you’ve heard stories of people using gentian violet and turning their baby purple in the process. Gentian violet can be used on your nipple region, painting over it twice a day, ideally. You can also paint the inside of your baby’s mouth. Just be aware that it stains skin and clothing. You might want to stay inside for a few days while you look like a plum.
11. Use Medications
If all else fails, you can use medication to treat thrush while breastfeeding. Both you and your baby should be treated with medication. If your doctor prescribes medicines for thrush, he will give you an antifungal medication. Your baby will, more than likely, receive a different drug than you’re taking.
Make sure that you take all of the medication exactly how your doctor tells you to do so. If you don’t, the infection maybe quickly come back.
A few common medications that your doctor might prescribe to treat a thrush infection include:
How to Prevent Thrush?
Preventing thrush is much easier than trying to get rid of it. Let’s look at what you can do to prevent further growth and development:
Thrush While Breastfeeding is
Contracting thrush while breastfeeding is tough. It can be painful for you, and irritating for your baby. But it should never be the ending point of your breastfeeding relationship. You can continue to nurse your baby, but make sure to stop pumping for now. Follow the ways to treat thrush, and then later, work on preventing thrush so that you never have to deal with it again.