Thrush (yeast) is a fungal infection that can form on your nipples or in your breast because it thrives on milk. The infection forms from an overgrowth of the candida organism. Candida usually exists in our bodies and is kept at healthy levels by the natural bacteria in our bodies. However, when the natural balance of bacteria is upset, candida can overgrow, causing an infection. Things that can cause thrush include: having an overly moist environment on your skin or nipples that are sore or cracked, taking antibiotics or birth control pills, having a diet that contains large amounts of sugar or foods with yeast, or having a chronic illness like HIV infection, diabetes, or anemia.
If you have sore nipples that last more than a few days even after you make sure your baby’s latch and positioning is correct, or you suddenly get sore nipples after several weeks of unpainful nursing, you could have thrush. Some other signs of thrush include itching or burning nipples which may look normal or may appear pink or red, shiny, flaky, or have a rash with tiny blisters. You also could have shooting pains in the breast during or after feedings. The infection also can form in the baby’s mouth from having contact with your nipples, and appear as little white spots on the inside of the cheeks, gums, or tongue. It also can appear as a diaper rash (small red dots around a rash) on your baby that won’t go away by using regular diaper rash ointments.
- If you or your baby have any of these symptoms, contact your health care provider so you and your baby can be diagnosed.
- You can get medication for your nipples and for your baby. Medication for the mother is usually an ointment for the nipples, and the baby can be given a liquid medication for his/her mouth, and/or an ointment for the diaper rash.
- Thrush may take several weeks to cure, so it is important to try not to spread it. Don’t freeze milk that you pump while you have thrush. Change disposable nursing pads often and wash any towels or clothing that come in contact with the yeast in very hot water (above 122° F). Also wash the baby’s toys in hot soapy water if he puts them in his/her mouth while he has thrush.
- Wear a clean bra every day.
- Wash your hands often, and wash your baby’s hands often, especially if he or she sucks on his/her fingers.
- If used, boil pacifiers, bottle nipples, or teethers once a day for 20 minutes to kill the thrush. After one week of treatment, discard them and buy new ones.
- Boil daily for 20 minutes all breast pump parts that touch the milk.
- Make sure other family members are free of thrush or other fungal infections. If they have symptoms, get them treatment.
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