Fungal Infections

Common Challenges of Breastfeeding

Thrush is a common problem among breastfeeding mothers and babies, and can range from an annoying nuisance to an extremely painful experience. 

Thrush is an infection caused by the overgrowth of yeast, which are one-celled organisms that normally live in and on our bodies. It is only when yeast overgrows that it becomes a problem. 

As pregnancy progresses, a woman is more likely to have an overgrowth of yeast. At birth, a vaginal overgrowth of yeast can be transferred to the baby, and the baby can end up with oral thrush (a yeast infection in the baby's mouth). A yeast infection on your nipples can also be transferred to your baby during breastfeeding.

Causes of thrush include:

  • Pregnancy

  • Infancy

  • A history of vaginal yeast infections

  • Recent antibiotic use

  • Nipple damage

Signs of thrush in mothers:

  • Painful, burning, or sore nipples between, during, and after feedings

  • Nipple pain that develops when breastfeeding was previously going well

  • Burning or shooting pain in the breast during or after a feeding

  • Red nipples or areola

  • Itchy nipples or shiny, peeling skin

  • Sore nipples that do not respond to treatment

  • Nipple pain that occurs while using a breast pump correctly

  • Cracked nipples that do not heal

  • Repeated breast infections

Signs of thrush in babies:

  • White spots in the mouth, on the tongue, or inside the lips that look like pearls, curds, or streaks of milk that won't wipe away

  • Red, irritated rash in the diaper area

  • Gassiness and crankiness

  • Baby repeatedly pulls off the breast during a feeding

Updated December 29, 2017

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