Feeding and Digestive Issues: Thrush
Thrush is a scary-sounding name for a harmless yeast infection that develops in a baby’s mouth and/or a breastfeeding mother’s nipples. You can recognize thrush by the white cottage-cheese-like patches in your baby’s mouth that won’t rub off. In fact, they might peel away to reveal raw, bleeding skin. (Note, however, that we’re not talking about the normal milky film that most newborns have until they develop enough saliva to fully wash away breast milk or formula.)
Babies first come in contact with yeast (your yeast, in fact) in the birth canal, but “good bacteria” helps to maintain it in their bodies. However, if something upsets this balance – usually antibiotics – then an overgrowth of yeast can cause an infection. Some babies aren’t bothered by it at all, while others find it so uncomfortable that feeding becomes difficult. Luckily it usually clears up without treatment, but breastfeeding moms should be aware that the infection could pass into their nipples (and visa versa).
If you notice white patches in your baby’s mouth and/or experience itchy, painful and flaky nipples:
- Call your pediatrician. Although it will most likely clear up in a couple of weeks, some doctors might prescribe an antifungal medication for you and the baby to take for about 10 days.
- Don’t stop breastfeeding, if you currently are doing so. Thrush can make it uncomfortable for your baby (and you) to nurse, but it will clear up soon. If you suspect your baby is in too much pain to eat normally, ask your doctor about acetaminophen.
- Keep an eye out during diapering. The yeast in your baby’s mouth might travel through the digestive system and cause a painful-looking diaper rash that is unresponsive to typical rash creams. (Yeast loves to grow in warm, moist places.) Try an over-the-counter antifungal cream, but call the doctor if the rash doesn’t clear up in two or three days. Oozing, blister-like sores and a fever are indications that a bigger bacterial infection is festering, which will definitely need medical attention.
Although some people are simply more prone to yeast overgrowths, there are a few measures you can take to possibly prevent thrush:
- If you can, avoid giving antibiotics to your baby and, if breastfeeding, taking them yourself. Antibiotics can kill off the good yeast-managing bacteria that our bodies need.
- If antibiotics are unavoidable, ask your doctor about you and/or the baby taking probiotic supplements to replace the “good” bacteria lost to antibiotics. Breastfeeding moms can also eat more yogurt and dairy, which contain live acidophilus cultures.
- Breastfeeding mothers should air-dry their nipples between feedings to avoid a moist, yeast-growing environment.
- Be extra clean by sterilizing pacifiers and wearing fresh nursing bras.