Thrush and Breastfeeding

10 Ways to Prevent and Treat Thrush

Nipple thrush is caused by an overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans, one of the most prevalent fungal infections. The species name “albicans” comes from the Latin word for “white” and in the case of thrush, it explains the white patches that appear on the tongue and cheeks of your baby when they have thrush.

While thrush isn’t serious, it’s unpleasant for you and your baby.  The shooting pains can take all the joy out of breastfeeding and without treatment it may even cause you to stop breastfeeding. The challenge is to make sure that both you and your baby are treated to avoid passing it back and forth between you during feeding.

Knowing what causes it and how to prevent and treat it will help you to overcome this nasty little fungal infection that can negatively impact your breastfeeding journey.

Problems breastfeeding
Chaffed nipples

Symptoms of thrush on your nipples

  • Itchy or burning nipples that appear fiery red, shiny, flaky, and/or have a rash with tiny blisters.
  • Cracked nipples.
  • Shooting pains in the breast during or after feedings.
  • Intense nipple or breast pain that is not improved with better latch-on and positioning.

Symptoms of thrush in your baby’s mouth

  • Oral thrush appears as milky, white velvety patches on the tongue and insides of your baby’s cheeks or lips.
  • It cannot be wiped away easily, as the infection is under the skin.
  • The patches might also appear red or inflamed.
  • Diaper rash
  • Crying or fussiness resulting in feeding challenges.

Effective treatment options for thrush

Thrush is one of the many challenges you may experience during your breastfeeding journey. Here are my recommendations for keeping your breasts and your baby healthy.

  1. Ensure a good latch to prevent cracked nipples. Thrush is more common when there are cracks and fissures.
  2. Silver has natural healing and antifungal properties. Use Silver Mama nipple cups between feedings especially if your nipples are cracked. Silver nipple cups are preferable to disposable nursing pads which provide a warm, moist environment that fungi love. Start using Silver Mama from day 1 to protect your nipples and prevent fungal infections.
  3. Apple cider vinegar is a natural antifungal. Make a solution of 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar in 1 cup of water and wipe your nipples with the diluted vinegar solution between feedings. Do not apply if nipples are cracked.
  4. Add a probiotic that includes lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and lactobacillus reuteri RC-to rebalance your vaginal microbiome.
  5. Cut down or remove sugar from your diet. Candida thrives on sugar!
  6. Eat plenty of garlic or add a garlic supplement to your diet.
  7. Antifungal medication (drops or a gel) containing nystatin, spread on baby’s tongue and inside the mouth at alternate feeds for 14 days. If you are breastfeeding you may find it easier to spread the gel on your nipples before feeds.
  8. Your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication such as Diflucan. It’s important that both you and your baby are treated simultaneously.
  9. Launder towels, clothing, and bras that may have come into contact with Candida. The best practice is to use a hot wash cycle.
  10. If you’re pumping your milk, keep it refrigerated until just before use to prevent the growth of yeast. You may think it’s not possible for your baby to get thrush if you’re not breastfeeding but thrush is caused by a bacterial imbalance. Contact with your baby is not necessary for it to occur.

Last but not least, get help swiftly (preferably from a lactation consultant) if you think you have thrush or any symptoms that make breastfeeding uncomfortable. At least 95% of breastfeeding challenges can be overcome with the right help and guidance. Your breastfeeding journey should be satisfying and rewarding.

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