What To Do If You Get Thrush While Breastfeeding

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Baby Thrush While Breastfeeding

Is it safe to keep breastfeeding with thrush“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.

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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. 

Take Note

Taking antibiotics increases the risk of developing thrush while breastfeeding. Many mothers receive IV antibiotics throughout labor and delivery, leading to thrush later.(source)

Other risk factors for developing thrush include:

  • Diabetes
  • Taking birth control pills
  • Pacifiers put your baby at a higher risk of developing an oral yeast infection.
  • Anemia in the mother increases risk factor
  • Long-term use of steroids can increase the risk.
  • Having cracked or bleeding nipples give the bacteria a way to enter your breasts.

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.

Breast and Nipple Pain

First, assess any kind of pain you may feel on your breasts and nipples. Thrush can cause quite severe pain that might be accompanied by a burning sensation, itching, pins, and needles, or sharp, stabbing pain. The pain can also be deep in your breast; quite unpleasant, if you ask me.

Reduced Milk Supply

Your baby might want to nurse a bit more, but your "tank" seems to be low on stock.

Take Note

Breastmilk reduces supply may also be due to the pain and swelling.

Swelling

Do your nipples or areola look swollen and red? That might indicate thrush.

Vaginal Yeast Infection

Often, thrush comes with vaginal yeast infection. It might spread throughout your body. Remember that Candida loves to grow and spread!

thrush comes with vaginal yeast infection
std-gov.org

Irritation of the Nipples

Thrush usually equates to shiny and flaky-looking nipples. You might also notice small blisters or white patches on the skin.

Diaper Rash

Your baby might show signs of thrush in the form of a diaper rash. If your baby’s bottom is red and quite bumpy, it might indicate thrush.

Irritation in Baby’s Mouth

Thrush most often presents itself on your baby as a white patch on his mouth, in particular, his tongue. It can be a patch or cover your baby’s entire tongue.

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. 

Take Note

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)

Kelly Dec - What To Do If You Get Thrush While Breastfeeding
Kelly Bonyata
BS, IBCLC

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.

Take Note

Make sure to wash pacifiers, baby bottles, nipples, teethers, toys, and all washable parts of your breast pump each day.

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.

Take Note

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:

Nystatin Cream

The most common prescription given is Nystatin cream, which is an antifungal medication. You will apply it directly to your breasts and nipples, and some doctors have versions you can spread on your baby’s tongue.

Diflucan

Your doctor might prescribe Diflucan, which is an oral pill. It’s usually the next step if Nystatin doesn’t do its job. Diflucan works best if the thrush infection is inside of your breast since antifungal creams won’t be able to penetrate.

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:

Good Handwashing

First and foremost, the most crucial step to prevent thrush is proper handwashing. Wash your hands after breastfeeding, using the bathroom, and changing your baby's diaper. Regular handwashing helps stop the spread of thrush and other common illnesses.

6 steps wash hand - What To Do If You Get Thrush While Breastfeeding
safetysign.com

Avoid Plastic Breast Pads

Breast pads help to soak up leaks, and it's best to avoid plastic ones or those with waterproof liners. Nursing pads made with plastic hold in moisture and restrict air from circulating around your breasts and nipples. Also, make sure to change your breast pads often. You don't want a full nursing pad to give the yeast a warm, sugary environment to grow.

Wash Your Nursing Bras Often

Make sure you change your nursing bras every day and whenever they get wet. Wash your bras in hot water to keep them clean and kill off any bacteria.

Avoid Nipple Creams

Unless you need to use a nipple cream, avoid them. Remember what yeast loves - warm and moist locations. Nipple creams add to that moisture that bacteria love and need to thrive.

Start a Probiotic Now

Taking a probiotic now before thrush occurs is better than starting when you have yeast. Add a probiotic to your diet or eat yogurt with active cultures each day. Good bacteria helps to balance out the development of fungus in your body.

Eat a Better Diet

We know that a sugary diet increases the likelihood of yeast. Eat a healthy, well-balanced breastfeeding diet and make sure to avoid empty calorie foods. A diet higher in sugar increases the risk of a yeast infection.

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.

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