Do You Have Thrush?

Thrush is the common name for a yeast infection (candida albicans) in a baby's mouth and/or the mother's nipples. It can be extremely painful to the mother and irritating to the baby. The pain of thrush in the nipples is usually described as ‘burning' or ‘shooting' as opposed to the pinching pain that occurs when the baby is not latched on well or sucking incorrectly.

Predisposing Factors

You and your baby are more likely to have thrush if you have had vaginal yeast infections while pregnant or after the birth. Use of antibiotics by either you or your baby increases your risk of thrush. Cracked nipples are also more conducive to thrush. Nipples that are warm and wet provide a perfect breeding ground for thrush.

Symptoms in your baby

You should suspect that your baby has thrush if he has white patches on his tongue, lips and inside of his mouth that are not easily wiped clean. He may begin to make a clicking noise while breastfeeding. He may have a diaper rash with small red sores that does not respond to regular treatment.

Though thrush does not hurt the baby like it hurts the mother is may cause your baby discomfort. He may seem irritable while nursing. He may also be gassier than usual from the extra yeast in his intestines.

The lack of visible symptoms in your baby does not mean that you do not have thrush.

Signs of thrush in mother

Consider thrush when breastfeeding suddenly begins to hurt after a period of painfree breastfeeding.  Your nipples may look shiny, red, or scaly though they may look completely normal. They may be itchy but may not be. It is how they feel on the inside that is most indicative of thrush. Women with thrush describe a burning pain while breastfeeding, like "lava" coming out of their nipples or a shooting pain like "daggers". Your nipples may hurt between feeds and the pain may radiate up your breasts. Both nipples will hurt. 

Thrush is usually diagnosed by the symptoms. It is important to treat both your nipples and your baby's mouth in order to avoid reinfection. See the article on treating thrush.

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