Thrush and Breastfeeding – Causes, Symptoms and How to Prevent

It doesn’t matter whether you have breastfed before or a new lactating mom, you may have faced many problems while breast feeding. Even though most of these problems are not severe enough, they can make the whole process of breastfeeding little uncomfortable for you. If you experience constant pain in your nipples during breastfeeding, it might be due to thrush, a common infection visible with lactating mom. Thrush while breastfeeding is a common infection which new mothers face.

But the good thing is that with the right medication and few changes in your lifestyle can help you overcome it quickly. It is imperative that new mothers be aware of what a thrush is and how they and their babies may infect with it and how to avoid thrush.

What is thrush while breastfeeding?

thrush while breastfeeding

Thrush is a common fungal infection caused by the yeast candida albicans. It commonly forms in your baby’s mouth which can affect your nipples during breastfeeding. You can also get thrush if you suffer from cracked nipples. If you have infected by thrush, you would probably experience pain in nipple or areola areas during breastfeeding. Sometimes this pain is excruciating.

What causes of thrush while breastfeeding?

As already mentioned above, thrush is an infection caused by a fungus known as candida albicans. Yeast when present in limited quantity in our bodies are helpful, but when they are present too much beyond the acceptable level, then it can cause a lot of problems. Candida albicans grows on the milk that is existing in your nipples as well as in your baby’s mouth. These fungi tend to enjoy moisture and warmth and are common occupants of the mouth, vagina, gut, and skin. Some of the conditions help them to grow overly, and this might lead to a candida infection.

You could get thrush if you or your baby had a course of antibiotics recently. Antibiotics might decrease the number of useful bacteria in the body and let the candida yeast thrush to grow. The infection can also cause if you have cracked nipples or you have been taking a course of steroids or oral contraceptive.

Some babies even contact candida when they pass through the birth canal. It might be due to if the mother has vaginal yeast infection during pregnancy and not being aware of it. Babies born by C section might develop thrush infection when mothers took antibiotics before labor.

You may infect with thrush via your child as well. Hence, it is essential that treatment need to take for you and the baby simultaneously. Sometimes, it will be hard to point the exact reason which caused the infection. Some women are just more vulnerable than others when it comes to these type of infection. Thrush can also cause if your diet is one which is high in sugar or you have diabetes.

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What are signs and symptoms of thrush in breastfeeding mom?

Some of the common symptoms that a breastfeeding mother might face due to thrush are as follows:

  • Red, itchy, burning, flaky and pink nipples.
  • Nipples might also get cracked.
  • Immense pain can be felt by mothers while or after they are breastfeeding.
  • Yeast infection in your vagina
  • Shiny skin near your areola or nipples

The pain that you feel while breastfeeding is quite intense and sometimes it lasts for an hour or more. It can happen if you are suffering from a damaged nipple and is responding to the treatment positively. Another common symptom of thrush on the nipple is itching or burning sensation. You can observe color changes on nipple and areola, and it may look pale.

Once you have thrush infection, you will have pain while breastfeeding and even if you have pain only in one breast it can spread to the other one too. Pain on the nipple is not likely to consider as the only reason for thrush, and there are other reasons which can stimulate the growth of infection and cause thrush.

The other reasons are as follows:

  • Thrush infection on other parts of the body of the mother. e.g., vaginal infection
  • If any other member of the family has the infection
  • If the mother consumes contraceptive pill
  • If mother or child treated with antibiotics

    Some of the common symptoms babies face due to thrush are:

  • One of the common symptoms is the occurrence of white patches on or in mouth, cheeks, and tongue of the child. These white spots look like cottage cheese and cannot wash off with water, unlike a milk coating. It will make the feeding painful for the baby, and the child might cry while feeding or refuse to latch onto the breasts.
  • Diaper rash which would look bright or dark red color. The rash might spread to the genitals of your baby as well
  • Sore mouth

How to prevent thrush while breastfeeding?

Thrush can prevent you from having a successful breastfeeding. Thus, it is imperative that you take proper care to prevent it from happening. Some of the ways to how to avoid thrush are:

  1. Washing your hands with soap properly before you breastfeed or change your baby’s diaper or after you use the bathroom, you can prevent the fungus from growing.
  2. If you are wearing breast pads, make sure you change them frequently. Nursing pads accumulated with milk can create a conducive atmosphere for the fungus to grow and flourish.
  3. Any instrument which is in contact with your nipples or your baby’s mouth needs sterilization. You can do it by boiling the water and placing the instruments in it for roughly five to seven minutes. Some of the instruments that you need to sterilize are pacifiers, feeding bottle and the teething ring can check the possibility of forming thrush in babies’ mouth.
  4. If you use the breast pump, make sure to clean it properly after use. You can do the cleaning either by bleaching it or immersing its parts separately in boiling water for few minutes.
  5. After you have breastfed your kid, you should clean your nipples. Use warm and clean water for this purpose. Also, make sure to keep your nipples dry to avoid the growth of yeast.
  6. Instead of house towels, you should use paper towels to dry your skin. House towels are known to get dirtier and attract bacteria from the environment is a deterrent for how to avoid thrush.
  7. You can eat yogurt as it contains probiotics and Lactobacillus acidophilus. It is a major step if you are consuming antibiotics and is a best probiotic to prevent thrush.
  8. Exposing nipples to sunlight for few minutes are very beneficial for resisting the infection. Vitamin D in sunlight can help to fight yeast naturally and prevent it from growing fast.
  9. If you are smoking, you need to stop it. It is not only harmful to you and your baby, but it can also increase the risk of thrush during breastfeeding.

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What is nipple thrush while breastfeeding?

nipple thrush while breastfeeding

As the name suggests, nipple thrush while breastfeeding is the fungus that grows around your nipples. It can cause due to cracked nipples, or you can get it from your baby when he is suffering from oral thrush. The nipple thrush can cause sharp, intense pain on your nipples. You might also find the skin around your nipples apparently dry, itchy and flaky.

To prevent nipple thrush, make sure that your baby latches properly to your breasts while feeding to avoid any injuries. Also if your child got thrush in the mouth, you need to get him treated immediately. Soggy breast pads are a big no. If you are feeling lazy to clean them at such frequent interval, you can instead use the disposable breast pads.

What is oral thrush while breastfeeding?

Thrush in breasts is what happens to your nipples whereas thrush in the mouth is an infection occurs due to candida fungus, which is a type of yeast in your child’s mouth. It looks like a coating of curd on their tongue and their cheeks. Babies usually get oral thrush within first few weeks/months of birth. It can eventually cause diaper rash in babies as well.

Oral thrush while breastfeeding is not a serious condition but it can prove to be quite irritating for your baby and can cause difficulty for them when they have breast milk. Oral thrush can happen due to a course of antibiotics or baby can get it from their mother during birth or feeding.

If you think your child is suffering from oral thrush, then you need to take the child to a pediatrician. The doctor will take a swab of the infected tissue and do the pathological test. If there is a yeast confirmation, he will advise the right medicine to treat it.

What are some of the natural ways to treat thrush?

baby thrush while breastfeeding

If you want natural remedies to get rid of thrush, then there are plenty of solutions that are very effective to do. Over the counter treatments and medications are also present, but it may be a reason for side effects than healing the symptom. Hence, it is best to avoid them. Also, these thrush medicines work kind of like a blanket. They do not cure your thrush but only mask your symptoms.

For better and effective solution for thrush, you need to make positive changes in your life style. Some foods increase the growth of yeast and hence, you need to avoid it, and required to include those foods which have immense potential to resist the growth of candida fungus. Below are some of the home remedy for thrush while breastfeeding:

  • As we have already mentioned above if your diet is high in sugar, you are most likely to get thrush. Because of this very reason, you need to cut down sugar from your diet. Also, don’t replace sugar with artificial sweeteners as they do more harm than good and increase your craving for sugar.
  • Cinnamon has antifungal properties and including it in your diet is a good idea.
  • Probiotics are present in curd and yogurt are an excellent way to prevent thrush. Acidophilus which is a probiotic and is present in yogurt helps to replace the candida fungus in the yeast and prevents growing of thrush.
  • You can rinse your nipples with distilled vinegar. It changes the pH level of your skin and creates an environment in which yeast can barely survive. You can mix ¼ cup of vinegar with water, dab a cotton swab in the mixture and apply it on your nipples.

If your nipples are too sore, you can use diluted apple cider vinegar for thrush to avoid any burning and tingling sensation. Let your nipples air dry after applying the mixture. You don’t have to wash it off before breastfeeding your baby. For best results, use this mixture for at least 4 times a day.

  • Cold pressed virgin coconut oil has got excellent anti-fungal properties. Instead of your standard oil, you can use the coconut oil for cooking. Also, you can apply it on your nipples or your baby’s mouth in case of oral thrush. Mix it with tea tree oil and apply it to your child’s bottoms for quick relief from diaper rash. Coconut oil for thrush is a useful recipe and one of the most popular tropical oils for thrush treatment.
  • Drink adequate quantity of water every day. Drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water every day is essential for our body for healthy metabolic activities and hydration.
  • Another natural method to keep thrush in control would be taking grapefruit seed extract capsules 2 to 3 times a day. If you prefer the liquid extract, take about 8 to 10 drops of the extract, mix it with a cup of water and drink it at least three times every day.
  • Garlic can also work efficiently to prevent thrush. However, if you do not like the smell of garlic, you can go for unflavored garlic capsules.
  • Gentian violet is a great anti-fungal treatment for yeast infection. You can use it inside your baby’s mouth as well as on your nipples to get rid of thrush.

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   What are some of the best probiotic to prevent thrush?

The best probiotic to prevent thrush would undoubtedly be acidophilus. It is the good bacteria which helps to keep the candida in check and prevents its multiplying. Adding this probiotic to your diet is a good way to keep your thrush in control. You can buy the probiotic in a capsule form from the drugstore. The dosage would be two tablets to be taken three times per day.

While giving it to the baby to cure oral thrush, you can break the capsule open and mix it with the baby food or allow him to suck it from your finger. Make sure you wash your hands properly before letting your child suck the same from your finger.

The probiotic powder also can take as a supplement. You can also apply some powder on your nipples so that your baby can suck it while feeding. For a natural source of probiotic, we would recommend yogurt. As already said above, it helps the good bacteria to grow back and limit the yeast in your body and resist thrush in breasts. Make sure that you consume unsweetened yogurt as sugar is not good for thrush.

   What are some of the food to avoid during thrush?

Some of the foods are a reason to stimulate the growth of candida fungus hence you should avoid these types of foods if you want to keep safe from infecting thrush. Foods to eat to avoid thrush are:

  • Non-Starchy Vegetables: Cabbage, Asparagus, Broccoli, Cucumber, Eggplant, Onions, Spinach, Tomatoes, Celery, Rutabaga, Garlic, Artichokes, etc.
  • Low Sugar Fruits: Avocado, Lime, Olives, Lemon, etc.
  • Non-Gluttonous Grains: Millet, Oat bran, Teff, Quinoa, Buckwheat, etc.
  • Healthy Proteins: Chicken, Salmon (wild), Turkey, Sardines, Eggs, Anchovies, Herring, etc.
  • Dairy Products: Ghee, Yogurt (probiotic), Butter, Kefir, etc.
  • Low-Mould Nuts and Seeds: Coconut, Flax seeds, Almonds, Sunflower seeds, Hazelnuts, etc.
  • Herbs, Spices, and Condiments: Apple cider vinegar, Black pepper, Cloves, Garlic, Cinnamon, Basil, Coconut aminos, Dill, Salt, Turmeric, Thyme, Paprika, etc.
  • Healthy Fat and Oils: Flax oil, Olive oil, Coconut oil (virgin), Sesame oil, etc.
  • Fermented Foods: Olives, Yogurt, Kefir, Sauerkraut, etc.
  • Drinks: Herbal teas, Chicory coffee, Filtered water, etc.

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How is thrush treated?

If you are unable to achieve a satisfactory result after treating thrush with natural means, then you should visit a doctor. Your doctor can diagnose the symptoms of thrush and shall be recommending to use thrush cream as a topical application. Usually, the diagnosis of the infection fixed by observing the symptoms and you shall not ask to do a swab test. The culture tests are not reliable in the case of candida infection as it often gives negative results. It is also important that your doctor rules out other factors that also could cause symptoms like nipples pain and soreness such as herpes, psoriasis, ringworm, and herpes.

The thrush cream will most possibly be an anti-fungal cream, and it will help to treat your infection. The cream required to apply after every breastfeed on your nipples. Before feeding your baby, make sure to wipe the cream off your nipples properly so that there is no remain left. Wiping your nipples with clean and hot water is recommended.

To confirm the cause of the infection, your doctor will also check if your baby is suffering from thrush too. The doctor will have to check the thrush in baby’s mouth to confirm the presence of infection and also check diaper rash if any. It’s important to treat the mom and infant simultaneously otherwise you will hit with the infection again from your baby. The treatment should be for both of you even if one of you don’t have the symptoms of the infection.

The treatment has to continue as suggested by your doctor even if you think that you are free from thrush infection and no longer suffering from pain. If you experience intense nipples pain after breastfeeding, then there is no harm in taking some mild painkiller tablets. If you do not see any improvement after seven days of starting the treatment, revisit your doctor. It has observed in many cases that the symptoms get worse before it responds to the treatment. So you need to have some patience. But in most cases, you will find some relief in 24 to 48 hours after starting the treatment.

If you or your baby has thrush while breastfeeding, it is recommended to visit your doctor immediately. Thrush is not dangerous, but for sure it is very annoying and painful. In babies, it can cause them discomfort, and they would stop latching to your breasts due to their sore mouth. It can cause you to have an unfulfilling breastfeeding process which can prove to be quite disheartening as well.

Thrush while breastfeeding is not a hazardous health issue, but it is a type of irritating infection, causing discomfort and pain on the nipples which can treat very quickly by proper and systematic medication under medical supervision.  Appropriate treatment can improve the infection in few days’ time. It is also the best option to try natural remedies to curtail the infection and prevent thrush formation. Check your baby frequently and if you notice any symptoms of thrush, take the child to a doctor immediately.

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