Comprehensive Care for Thrush Infection in Breastfeeding Mom and Baby

At University Hospitals, we understand how uncomfortable it can be for mothers and babies to develop a thrush breastfeeding infection. If an infection persists after you and/or your baby has taken medication, we encourage you to visit one of our clinical specialists as soon as possible. Our team is dedicated to helping you and your baby find relief and get back to this special bonding time during infant feeding.

What is a Thrush Infection?

Thrush is another name for a yeast infection. Yeast grows rapidly in warm moist areas. A yeast infection may be present on mother’s nipples or breast or in your baby’s mouth or diaper area. Sometimes both mother and baby have a yeast infection, or only one person has a yeast infection. To prevent the spread of yeast, wash your hands frequently when touching your breast, baby’s mouth or baby’s diaper area.

Signs of Thrush for Mothers

Some signs of thrush for mothers include:

  • Red or deep pink nipples or areola.
  • Nipples may be shiny with peeling, flaky skin and may itch. A rash may be present with tiny blisters.
  • Sore or cracked nipples that don’t respond to basic treatment or the sudden onset of sore nipples after a period of comfortable nursing.
  • Sore nipples throughout a feeding despite good positioning and latch.
  • Burning or shooting pain the breast during or after a feeding.
  • Nipple and/or breast pain while pumping correctly, using a good electric breast pump and correctly sized breast shield.
  • Current vaginal yeast infection or history of repeated vaginal yeast infections.
  • Recent use of antibiotic may put you at increased risk of a yeast infection.

Signs of Thrush for Babies

Some signs of thrush for babies include:

  • Baby’s mouth has white patches surrounded by diffuse redness.
  • Diaper rash (red or red with raised bumps).
  • Baby is fussy, gassy and cranky.
  • Baby repeatedly pulls off the breast or refuses breast.
  • Your sexual partner may also have a yeast infection.

Treatment for Yeast Infections

If both you and your baby have symptoms of yeast, both of you should be seen by a healthcare provider and treated. Some healthcare providers will treat both mother and infant at the same time, even if one does not have symptoms.

  • Your healthcare provider will probably prescribe an antifungal medication. FOLLOW PRINTED INSTRUCTIONS listed on your medication.
  • Instructions usually recommend placing the antifungal medication in the baby’s mouth using a medicine dropper after feedings and swabbing medication over baby’s gums and tongue.
  • If your baby has yeast present in the diaper area, antifungal cream or lotion may be applied to baby’s entire diaper area.
  • Antifungal cream or lotion can be applied to mother’s nipples or breast before and after feedings.

General Recommendations:

  • Air dry nipples and, if possible, expose them directly to the sun for a few minutes twice a day.
  • Throw away disposable breast pads as soon as they are wet.
  • Wear 100% cotton underwear and bras. Wash in very hot water and use bleach to kill yeast spores.
  • Restrict alcohol, cheese, bread, wheat products, sugar and honey, which promote the growth of yeast.
  • Avoid bathing with other members of the family.
  • Use condoms during sex to avoid cross infections with a sexual partner.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider concerning possible use of acidophilus tablets.
  • Boil items daily that come in contact with your breast or baby’s mouth, such as breast shields, breast pump flanges, pacifiers, bottle nipples and teething toys for 20 minutes.
  • If you are unable to boil items, soak items in a vinegar and water solution for 30 minutes.
  • Thrush infection easily passes to other people. Avoid skin to skin contact, frequently wash hands and do not share towels.
  • Do not freeze expressed breast milk until you have completed your course of medication and are symptom free. Freezing breast milk does not kill yeast. Call your healthcare provider if symptoms continue after finishing your medication.

Sources:

Lawrence, Ruth A. & Lawrence, Robert M. “Breastfeeding, A Guide for the Medical Professional”, Eighth edition, ELSEVIER, 2016.

Wambach, Karen and Riordan, Jan “Breastfeeding and Human Lactation”, Fifth edition, Jones & Bartlett, 2016.