Have you noticed a white rash inside your mouth? Or your baby’s mouth? If you’re a breastfeeding mom, have you experienced sore nipples or shooting pain in your breasts? If so, you may have Thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection that people can get in their mouths or on their skin. This type of infection needs moisture and grows well in milk, which is why nursing mothers can develop it on their breasts.
What is Thrush?
Thrush is an overgrowth of the Candida organism, which is yeast. Your mouth, skin, and digestive tract already have small amounts of the candida fungus. Your body can tolerate small amounts, but sometimes, certain illnesses or medications can upset the balance, which causes the fungus to grow and cause a yeast infection.
What Increases the Likelihood of Thrush in Breastfeeding Women?
Vaginal yeast infection during pregnancy or a history of vaginal yeast infections increases the likelihood that a woman might develop thrush. Also, some women experience cracked nipples when breastfeeding. Cracks aren’t normal and can allow yeast and bacteria to enter the skin. Letting damp nursing pads or bras stay on the nipple tissue or using nursing pads lined in plastic prevent airflow to the nipples and can create a moist environment for the Candida organism to grow and develop symptoms.
What are the Symptoms?
For breastfeeding women, a key sign of thrush is sore nipples that last more than a few days, particularly if they had been breastfeeding without pain previously. Other symptoms are pains deep in the breast, achy breasts, or flaky, shiny, itchy, blistered, or cracked nipples.
If thrush is in your or your baby’s mouth, you might see white areas in the mouth on gums, tonsils, or back of the throat. These areas may be painful and bleed slightly. A baby with thrush may also have excessive gassiness from the excess yeast in his or her stomach and a diaper rash that doesn’t respond to ointments. However, a baby may also show no visible symptoms.
What Can I Do About It?
Doctors prescribe antifungal medicines to treat fungal infections. These come in tablets, liquids, or creams. For women who have thrush on their breasts, their doctor will likely recommend an antifungal cream to apply several times a day for about a week. Thrush may take a few weeks to clear up, so it is important to follow these tips to avoid spreading the infection:
- Boil (for ten minutes) all toys your baby puts in his or her mouth.
- Clean breast pump parts that touch your milk in boiling water.
- Change your nursing pads and bra often.
- Throw away pacifiers and bottle nipples. Buy new ones.
- Wash your hands often.
- Disinfect any towels or clothing that might have encountered the yeast by washing in hot water.
- Wash your baby’s hands often.
If you think you or your baby might have thrush, call Creekside Center for Women to set up an appointment with your health care provider.