Treating Thrush

Common Challenges of Breastfeeding

If you suspect that you or your baby has a yeast infection, call both of your healthcare providers. Treatment for mother and baby must occur at the same time, even if only one of you has symptoms. If you are not treated simultaneously, you and your baby can re-infect each other.

Treatment for mom:

Call your health care provider/obstetrician for medicine for your nipples. Most often an antifungal cream will be prescribed, or perhaps an over-the-counter antifungal cream will be recommended.

After each feeding, you may rinse your nipples with water or a solution of one tablespoon cider vinegar in one cup of water. Allow your nipples to air dry.

Apply a small amount of the antifungal cream to your nipples, areola, and any part of the breast that comes in contact with your baby's mouth. Do this after each feeding until two weeks after all signs of thrush are gone. Gently wash away any obvious residue of medicine that has not been absorbed before breastfeeding.

Wash your hands thoroughly before and after feedings and also after you apply medicine to your nipples.

If your nipples are too painful for you to nurse your baby, pump or express your milk until your nipples feel better. An over-the-counter pain medication may help reduce pain. Check with your doctor to be sure which medication to use.

Breast shells may provide relief if nipple pain makes it uncomfortable to wear clothing.

If you are pumping your milk, feed it to your baby the same day. If you save it for a later time, you may re-infect your baby. Freezing does not kill yeast. Discard previously stored milk.

Avoid foods that encourage yeast to grow:

  • Sugar (including artificial sweeteners)
  • Yeast breads
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Fermented beverages (wine, beer)
  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Mushrooms
Take supplements that prevent the growth of yeast:

  • Probiotics
  • Garlic
  • B-complex vitamins

It is best not to use breast pads. If you do use them, replace them as soon as they get wet.

Boil items that come into contact with your breast (breast shells, pump parts) for 20 minutes every day.

If your nipple pain does not improve after five days of treatment, contact your health care provider. You may need a different antifungal cream or ointment. If you experience shooting or burning pain in your breasts, you may need to be treated with an oral antifungal medication for two weeks or more. This medicine can be used safely by most breastfeeding mothers and babies.

Treatment for baby:

Call the baby's health care provider/pediatrician for medicine, usually an oral antifungal solution.

Put the measured amount of medicine into a medicine cup or small paper cup. Swab the medicine onto the inside of the baby's mouth with a cotton swab or your finger. Do not use the medicine dropper that comes with the medication, as you could contaminate the medicine. Apply the medicine to all surfaces of the baby's mouth after feedings, at least 4-6 times each day. This medication works best by direct contact with the yeast. Have your baby drink what is left in the cup.

Boil things that go into your baby's mouth (pacifiers, teething toys, and bottle nipples) for 20 minutes each day, and replace them after 1 week of treatment.

Wash your hands before and after putting medicine in your baby's mouth, and after diaper changes.

If your baby has a diaper rash, antifungal cream should be applied after each diaper change.

For yeast infections that are difficult to eliminate, Gentian Violet can be very effective and can be used at the same time as other antifungals. Talk with your health care provider or lactation consultant for instructions on using Gentian Violet or for any additional concerns about treating yeast infections.

Updated June 6, 2016

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