Your guide to thrush when breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing but sometimes you can have troubling problems which make this special bonding time with your baby a lot more complicated.
One problem you may encounter while breastfeeding is thrush, which can affect both mother and baby, making breastfeeding uncomfortable or even painful.
If you’re a breastfeeding parent who is worried about thrush, this guide will help you to learn everything you need to know about thrush and how it can affect breastfeeding.
How do you get thrush?
Thrush is a yeast infection which means it’s caused by the natural fungus that lives on your skin.
The fungus that causes thrush is called Candida and it’s normally harmless, but when given the right conditions to thrive, Candida can cause a yeast infection.
Usually, Candida is kept in check by the natural good bacteria in your body, but if these bacteria are disturbed or reduced then you may develop thrush.
This is why many pregnant or breastfeeding women suffer with thrush, as the hormonal changes that come with pregnancy disturb your body’s natural balance, leaving you vulnerable to thrush.
Babies also commonly get thrush because their immune system is not as well developed as an adult’s, meaning that they will not be able to fight off the Candida yeast as effectively.
When you mention thrush, many people immediately think of vaginal thrush, but if you’re a breastfeeding mother there are two other types of thrush that you need to know about – oral thrush and thrush in your breasts.
Let’s take a look at what they are and what they mean for your little one.
How to spot oral thrush symptoms in your baby
Thrush in the mouth or on the tongue is very common in babies and although it can be concerning for parents to spot symptoms of oral thrush, it’s usually harmless.
The signs of oral thrush in babies are usually very easy to spot, here’s a list of some of the most common symptoms:
- A white coating on the inside of the mouth or on the tongue that will not rub off easily. This may look like cottage cheese.
- Your baby may be reluctant to feed.
- Your baby may become unsettled while feeding.
- A nappy rash that will not clear up.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your baby, you should go to see your doctor right away so they can tell you whether your baby is suffering with thrush.
The doctor will take a simple swab from the inside of your little one’s mouth and test it for thrush.
If this test comes back positive and you’re a breastfeeding mother, then your doctor may also want to test you for thrush, as you could have it yourself.
Can I catch thrush from my baby while breastfeeding?
Yes, it is possible to catch thrush from your baby while breastfeeding.
If your baby has oral thrush then the regular contact between yourself and your baby means that you could also develop a yeast infection in your breasts or nipples.
This is why your doctor may also want to test your breasts for thrush if your infant has a yeast infection in their mouth.
It’s not unusual for both a breastfeeding mother and their baby to have thrush at the same time.
What symptoms of thrush could I notice in my breasts or nipples?
You now know what thrush symptoms to look for in your baby, but how can you tell if you have thrush in your breasts?
Here’s our list of signs to look for that could mean that you have thrush:
- You develop sudden pain in both of your breasts or nipples after feeds, which happens suddenly after weeks of pain free breastfeeding.
- Pain is severe and can last for an hour after every feed.
- Your nipples or areolas are cracked, flaky, or sensitive.
- Your nipples or areolas change colour.
How can I treat thrush when I’m breastfeeding?
So now that your doctor has told you that you or your baby or even both of you have developed thrush, you’re going to be wondering how to treat it.
You’ll be happy to learn that thrush is simple to treat and that there are remedies that can help both you and your baby.
In fact, your doctor will probably recommend that both of you use thrush treatments until the infection is cleared, even if only one of you is suffering with thrush.
Let’s take a look at which treatments your doctor might recommend.
Treatments for Baby
If your baby has oral thrush, your doctor will probably recommend an antifungal gel that you can apply to the affected areas.
The first treatment your doctor will recommend is usually a gel that contains an ingredient called miconazole, which is found in Daktarin.
You can apply this gel with a clean finger, making sure to apply a little bit at a time to reduce the risk of choking.
This is a very effective treatment, but you should never give any kind of medication to your baby without discussing it with your doctor first.
They will be able to assess any problems that might arise and help you to make the best treatment decision for your little one.
Treatment for Mum
At the same time as treating your baby, you will also need to use your own treatment for thrush.
Your doctor will probably recommend that you use an antifungal cream, which may contain the same ingredient as the gel that is used to treat babies – miconazole.
Normally, breastfeeding mothers are advised to apply this cream after every feed, making sure to remove any left-over cream before you feed your little one again.
If your yeast infection is severe, you may also need to take an antifungal tablet, such as a Canesten tablet, to help to combat thrush.
Again, you should only use any medication or treatment if it has been discussed and recommended by your doctor, especially if you are breastfeeding.
Some medicines can be transferred to your baby during breastfeeding, so it’s very important that your doctor helps you to choose which medication is the best one for you and your child and that you do not take anything that your doctor has not approved.
How to prevent thrush
As we mentioned earlier, thrush can be very easy to develop during pregnancy and when your child is a baby.
This can leave many parents looking for ways to prevent thrush that can be used until their little one starts on solid food.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help to keep thrush at bay for both you and your baby.
Make sure to sterilise your baby’s dummies regularly and if your baby has any favourite toys that they often put into their mouth, make sure to sterilise them too.
Also, be sure to sterilise baby’s feeding equipment regularly, especially their bottles and the teats.
Don’t freeze any breastmilk that you express when you or your baby are suffering with a yeast infection.
Although thrush cannot survive hot temperatures, cold will not kill thrush meaning that it can survive in frozen breast milk and cause reinfection if your baby drinks it.
So now we know all about thrush and how it can affect both you and your baby while you’re breastfeeding.
Remember, you shouldn’t use any medication or treatment for thrush that hasn’t been discussed with your doctor first. This is the best thing to ensure that you and your baby will stay healthy and happy.
If you still have any questions about thrush or any other medical issue, our Chemist 4 U pharmacy are always there to help.
Give us a call and we’ll be able to ease your mind and help you to be sure that you’re making the best choices for you and your little one.