Aug 22, 2007

Thrush: Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatment

Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor and that this post is intended as a starting point for breastfeeding moms. Sources for this post include internet articles, my own experiences, and my friends' experiences. If you suspect that you and/or your baby have thrush, please contact an expert.

A couple of my breastfeeding friends have been diagnosed with thrush, which is a yeast infection in mommy's breasts and/or baby's mouth and/or baby's bottom. Some factors like vaginal yeast infections and the administration of antibiotics during pregnancy or birth can increase the likelihood of developing thrush. It's extremely painful - one of my friends even compared it being in labor. Symptoms may include:
  • intense pain in mommy that lasts throughout the feeding and isn't improved by adjusting the latch or positioning
  • sudden development of nipple pain after a period of pain-free nursing
  • itchy, painful and/or red nipples
  • shooting pains in the breast
  • diaper rash that doesn't respond to usual creams or ointments
  • white spots in baby's mouth that can't be wiped off
  • clicking during nursing or a sudden change in nursing pattern
There are other symptoms, and sometimes only baby will have symptoms or vice versa. And, at least in my experience, having some of these symptoms does not mean you and/or baby have a yeast infection. In fact, at some point with both of my kids, I was convinced I had thrush and I was (thankfully!) wrong.

However, if you do have thrush, it's extremely difficult to get rid of. I think that's the worst part about it. Ideally, both mommy and baby will be treated at the same time. However, most pediatricians don't like treating mommy and most ob/gyn's don't like treating babies, so you'll have to at least call, if not see, both doctors. And some doctors won't treat an asymptomatic mommy or baby.

For treatment, generally, baby is prescribed Nystatin drops and mommy is prescribed Nystatin cream. Over the counter antifungal creams may be used on the nipples but must be wiped off prior to feeding; they can also be used on baby's bottom to treat a thrush-induced diaper rash. For more persistent cases, a doctor may prescribe diflucan for mommy. You may also want to consider live culture acidophilus, gentian violet, and/or garlic supplements. Additionally, you should air your nipples out as much as possible and sterilize all items that come into contact with baby's mouth (pacis, bottles, toys, etc.). Finally, milk that is expressed while mommy or baby has thrush may be fed to baby via bottle but not frozen since giving baby that milk after the thrush has been treated can cause a recurrence.

For additional information, you may want to check out the following links:

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