Thrush, or candidiasis, is a yeast infection of the infant mouth and/or the nursing mother’s nipples and/or breasts. If you or your baby were given antibiotics for any reason after delivery, the chemistry of your body has probably been compromised and has given yeast the upper hand. A history of long-term or frequent antibiotic or steroid use in the mother is also a predisposing factor for yeast.
You can have thrush in your breast without it appearing on your baby’s mouth (‘asymptomatic’) or your baby can have it in your mouth and it never appears in your breasts.
Symptoms appear as white curd-like patches that cannot be wiped and may make your baby’s mouth sore so he may not want to nurse. Other symptoms include a red rash on the nipple, increased nipple sensitivity, pain during nursing, burning nipples between feeds and stabbing pain in the breast if yeast gets up your milk ducts. You could also have a vaginal yeast infection. In addition to white patches in their mouths, babies may exhibit a diaper rash that does not respond to typical treatments (try a vinegar rinse), a reluctance to nurse due to mouth soreness or excessive gassiness due to the yeast’s invasion of their tummies.
Both mother and baby should be treated, even if only one is exhibiting symptoms. Treatment includes anti-fungal medication, change in diet, altered hygiene and lots of patience.
If you are using nursing pads, buy only ones without a ‘moisture barrier’ because those are typically plastic and yeast thrives in the warm, moist environments that plastic helps create. Try to go shirtless, and wash your clothes after every wear because clothing contaminated with yeast can re-infect you.
Yeast does not survive in acidic environments so eat things that are natural anti-fungals and avoid things that yeast thrives on. In other words, cut out all processed sugars and white flour, and eat lots of yogurt with active live cultures. You can also take lactobacillus acidophilus in pill format, which you should store in the refrigerator. Eat lots of garlic and take garlic supplements, add flax seed oil to your diet and don’t forget olive oil, which also has anti-fungal properties. Consider adding echinacea to your diet, which has immune boosting properties. Avoid foods with molds or yeasts in them, including cheese, beer, yeast-raised bread, wine, etc. There are also several homeopathic remedies for thrush available at your local health food store that you could try. Gentian violet, an antiseptic treatment, will work against thrush in the baby’s mouth (according to the proper guidelines) and can be put on your nipples.
Boil your bras! Get the water at a rolling boil before you put anything into it, and keep it boiling for about twenty minutes with your bras fully immersed. Boil anything else that has come into contact with yeast-contaminated milk. Be sure not to feed your baby yeast contaminated milk after your course of treatment (which will probably take two weeks), or you will both get re-infected. Freezing milk does not kill yeast, so you should just ‘pump and dump’ until you are better.
La Leche. Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding. 6th Edition.
Newman, Jack M.D.and Teresa Pitman. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book Of Answers Revised And Updated: The Most Comprehensive Problem-Solving Guide To Breastfeeding From the Foremost Expert In North America.