What is thrush?
Thrush is a fungal infection, most often caused by candida albicans. There are over 300 different strains of candida, albicans just happens to be the most common in breastfeeding dyads. This is the same fungus that can cause vaginal yeast infections and athletes’ foot. Candida albicans naturally lives on our bodies, but causes issues when there is an overgrowth. It thrives in moist, dark, warm environments, and loves sugar. So you can imagine that your baby’s mouth and your nipples can be at risk for this overgrowth to happen.
Who is at risk?
- Babies and breastfeeding mothers!
- Anyone who has had antibiotics
- You or someone else in your home has a yeast infection
- You are rundown, overworked and under paid (in other words a mother! )
- If you have cracked or damaged nipples
What are the signs that I or my baby have thrush?
- Nipples that look and feel sunburned
- Itchy nipples
- Skin on areola and nipples may be smooth and shiny or flaky, or may look normal
- Baby may have white patches on their tongue and inside of their cheeks that are not easily wiped off (not milk residue, which is easily wiped off)
- Baby may have a diaper rash, that is red, angry looking and looks like lots of little bumps, often called a pinpoint rash
- Sometimes only 1 of you will have symptoms of thrush, it may be you, or it may be your baby. It is still important to treat both of you.
What can I do to treat thrush?
It is important to treat both mom and baby so that you don’t prolong the process
Gentian Violet is a good first option. It’s messy though, so be warned, if you spill some on your carpet, you may as well buy some more bottles and make a pattern! Candida albicans is particularly sensitive to gentian violet.
Using Gentian Violet
- Make sure that the gentian violet is mixed in an aqueous (water-based) solution and not alcohol
- Use a clean q-tip and dip it into the bottle of gentian violet
- Let your baby suck on the gentian violet soaked q-tip so that it spreads and his mouth is purple (note: using Vaseline on his lips will save them from turning purple, and please make sure all baby photos are done prior to starting this treatment)
- Now breastfeed your baby. At the end of the feeding your nipples should be purple too. If they are not, paint them with the gentian violet soaked q-tip
- Repeat once a day, remember gentian violet stains, so wear old bras!
- If after 4 days, there is no improvement, stop using gentian violet and contact an IBCLC
- If there is improvement, continue for 7 days
- If after 7 days there is still some thrush, contact an IBCLC
Other tips and tricks:
Your doctor may prescribe nystatin.
You can use canestan on your nipples and in baby’s diaper area.
You can take pain medication such as Tylenol and Advil to help with pain.
Wash hands often, especially after changing diapers or before feeds.
Wash towels every day or use paper towels while treating for thrush.
If thrush remains an issue, contact an IBCLC for more treatment options, but most cases can be easily resolved by following the above steps.