Breastfeeding and thrush

Baby with milky mouthThrush doesn't just affect your nether regions; you can get it on your nipples or breasts.

A fungal infection, thrush thrives in warm, moist places; add in the sugar present in breastmilk and the conditions in your baby's mouth during breastfeeding are ripe for oral thrush.

Around one in 20 babies gets oral thrush, according to NHS Choices, and although it is harmless for babies, they can pass it to you during breastfeeding. It typically shows up as white, creamy, patches in your baby's mouth, although there may be no symptoms. It can make your baby fussy and reluctant to feed.

Oral thrush can go to the other end of your baby's digestive system - ie their bottom - and cause nappy rash. This gives your baby a sore bottom with red spots, and can take a while to clear up. There's plenty of advice about dealing with nappy rash on the Mumsnet Talk boards.

What are the symptoms of breastfeeding thrush?

It can make your nipples and areola sore, flaky and itchy, and can cause shooting pain deep within the breast both during and after a feed.

How do you tell the difference between cracked nipples and thrush?

If you have sore or painful nipples, it isn't necessarily thrush. A poor latch during breastfeeding can lead to sore nipples, so check you're baby is latching on correctly, even if you've been breastfeeding for a while. 

The Breastfeeding Network says the difference between sore nipples and thrush is that thrush causes and agonising pain felt equally in both breasts after every feed. But, obviously, there are exceptions to every rule and you may be that exception, so if you think you or your baby has thrush, get it checked.

How is breastfeeding thrush treated?

Thrush can be difficult to spot (as sometimes there are no symptoms) and even harder to treat. If you suspect you have it, you should see your GP.

Once diagnosed, it's essential you and your baby are treated together or you're likely just to keep passing it back and forth between you. You will probably be given antifungal cream such as miconazole, or in more severe cases antifungal tablets, and antifungal mouth drops for your baby.

If you're expressing milk, sterilise breast pump parts and bottles, teats and dummies. Wash your clothes, your baby's clothes and bedding at 60°C to kill off bacteria. Don't use perfumed soap or shower gel and dry your breasts thoroughly. And if you eat a lot of sugar and yeast in your diet, try to cut down.

Is it OK to continue breastfeeding?

Yes, but we're not underestimating how painful that can be. Our Breastfeeding Talk topic abounds with tales of thrush-induced pain and woe, but if you can persevere with breastfeeding, you'll almost certainly be very pleased you did. 

What Mumsnetters say about breastfeeding thrush

  • My nipples went a bit of a funny bright pink colour that really stood out from the colour of the areola, and I got a sort of itchy pain. The skin also peeled a bit. Madmouse
  • The other thing I did was spend time with my bra off and my beasts open to the air - thrush thrives in warm damp areas, so a bit of light and fresh air help. Bloodberrybatbait
  • Ask for a boobs' swab to be taken to the lab. MarinellaB
  • I was advised to bathe my breasts in bicarbonate of soda water. weeonion
  • Wash your bra at 60°C, change your bra every day, don't wear breastpads if you can help it, keep your breasts cool and dry, and remind yourself that you will get better soon. NineUnlikelyTales

 

Last updated: 23-Sep-2013 at 4:25 PM