Understanding and Managing Thrush during Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to nourish your baby and to build a strong bond with them, but it’s not always without challenges. One of the most common issues that breastfeeding mothers may encounter is Thrush, a fungal infection that can affect both you and your baby.
What is Thrush?
Thrush, also known as Candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by the yeast Candida Albicans. This yeast is normally present in small amounts on the skin, in the mouth and in the digestive tract. But under certain conditions such as a weakened immune system or very warm and moist environments, Candida can multiply and lead to an infection.
Causes of thrush during breastfeeding
Thrush during breastfeeding typically occurs when Candida overgrowth affects the mother’s nipples and the baby’s mouth. The warm and moist environment of the baby’s mouth and the mother’s breasts provide an ideal breeding ground for the yeast to thrive. It’s important to reduce any and all risk factors as best as possible.
Factors that can contribute to the development of Thrush
The use of antibiotics in either the mother or the baby can disrupt the balance of microorganisms in your body, including the beneficial bacteria that help keep Candida in check.
– Weakened Immune System
A weakened immune system due to stress, illness or certain medications can make you more prone to develop Thrush.
– Poor Hygiene
Not keeping the nipple area clean and dry can create an environment favorable to yeast growth.
– Pacifier or Bottle Use
Pacifiers and bottle nipples can provide an opportunity for yeast to thrive and be passed back and forth between mother and baby.
High blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can promote yeast overgrowth.
Symptoms of Thrush
– Nipple pain and soreness, often described as shooting or burning sensations.
– White spots on the mother’s nipples.
– Itchy or flaky nipples.
– Shiny or red areolas.
– Baby’s mouth showing white patches on the lips, tongue, gums, or the inside of the cheeks.
– Bum rash in the baby.
– Baby being fussy or irritable during nursing.
Treatment and Prevention
– Consult a Healthcare Professional
If you suspect thrush, it’s essential to consult a healthcare provider that’s experienced in lactation. They can accurately diagnose the condition and recommend suitable treatment options for both you and your baby.
– Antifungal Medications
Both you and your baby will need antifungal medications such as nystatin or fluconazole to treat thrush. These medications can be applied topically to your nipples and taken orally by your baby. It’s crucial to complete the entire course of treatment to prevent recurrence.
– Maintain Good Hygiene
Keep your nipples clean and dry. Change breast pads frequently and wash them with hot water to prevent reinfection.
– Sterilize Equipment
If you’re using breast pump parts, bottles, or pacifiers, make sure to sterilize them thoroughly with very hot water after each use to prevent the spread of yeast. You’ll also have to sterilize anything else that comes into contact with either your breasts or your baby’s mouth and bum, such as bras, cloth diapers and towels.
Some research suggests that taking probiotics, either through supplements or certain foods, may help restore the balance of healthy bacteria in your body and potentially reducing the risk of thrush.
– Adjust Your Diet
Reducing your intake of sugary foods and refined carbohydrates may help create an environment that’s less favorable to yeast growth.
– Treating Both Mother and Baby
It’s very important to treat both you and your baby at the same time to prevent passing the infection back and forth, even if one of you may not be showing any signs of Thrush.
Thrush is a highly over diagnosed infection. Very obvious, or more than 1 symptom should be present when making a diagnosis or when possible, a swab may be taken to confirm Thrush infection. If treatment isn’t working or Thrush is recurrent, a swab must be taken to confirm whether it is Thrush, another infection or something else completely.
Things like the letdown reflex and Vasospasm are often misdiagnosed as Thrush and therefore it may be a good idea to consult with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to rule out any other issues and to help with overall breastfeeding education and support.
Thrush can be an uncomfortable and challenging experience for breastfeeding mothers and their babies, but with prompt diagnosis, evidence-based treatment, and preventative measures, you can effectively manage and overcome this infection and continue your breastfeeding journey with more ease and enjoyment.