As a breastfeeding mom, sore, cracked and sometimes bleeding nipples have become quite common. Lactation specialist often attribute nipple pain to baby latching to the nipple improperly, but there is a very common infection that may be the actual issue. Oral Thrush is a common infection in the mouth of infants. It is caused by a yeast like fungus, Candida albicans. It can affect the nipples of breastfeeding mothers, leading to irritation, soreness and cracked nipples. Luckily thrush is treatable, but can easily be transferred back and forth if not properly handled.
From the moment Emory was born, our breastfeeding journey together has been quite enjoyable. She latches properly and is exclusively breastfed. She’s a solid and chunky 21 pound, healthy baby girl. Although there have been no latch issues, I’ve found that nipple irritation is something I’m constantly experiencing. After voicing my concerns to Emory’s pediatrician, she informed me that the cause of my nipple pain was oral thrush.
Read on to learn more about the causes, symptoms and methods to treat this common infection.
A small amount of the Candida fungus lives in the mouth most of the time. It is usually kept in check by the immune system and other types of germs that also normally live in the mouth. However, when the immune system is weaker, the fungus can grow, leading to sores and lesions in the mouth and on the tongue.
Oral thrush may occur in babies because their immune systems have not yet matured. They are less able to resist infection. An oral thrush infection can happen after treatment with antibiotics, because antibiotics reduce the levels of healthy bacteria in the mouth. This allows fungus to proliferate.
Studies have also attempted to tie oral thrush to diet. Stating that diets high in dairy and yeast increase the rate of which thrush may appear in an exclusively breastfed child. Although, this has not been proven, I am working to decrease my carb intake in the new year. I love cupcakes, cookies and pies.
We weren’t familiar with thrush and assumed the tiny white spots in Emory’s mouth were breast milk stains.
Be on the look out for tiny white patches on the roof of the mouth, inside the cheeks, and on the tongue.
They may appear like milk stains, but can’t be wiped away. The patches may be painful and cause your baby pain while nursing. Contact your pediatrician immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
A few telltale signs are itchy, red nipples and deep breast pain. Ibuprofen helps with the stabbing pain, but treating it with the suggested yeast fighting medication is the best tool!
Depending on how severe the infection is apple cider vinegar (1 part acv/3 parts water) is a great DIY remedy. For less severe outbreaks, gently swab your babies mouth with an ACV soaked q-tip, a few times a day. If your nipples are chapped or cracked, apply a small amount after each feeding to decrease the amount of bacteria.
I’ve found that applying anti-fungal products like Lotrimin to the nipples after they’ve been cleaned helps combat the itching and burning that often accompanies thrush. Just make sure to remove if from the nipples (swab with olive oil) before nursing and/or pumping.
Typically a pediatrician will prescribe your child the recommended medication to combat oral thrush. My OBGYN has always handles my prescription requests.
Nystatin (liquid) is generally prescribed to fight oral thrush in babies. While the Nystatin cream is used to relieve nipple irritation. Honestly, we’ve found Nystatin ineffective. Leading to constant reoccurring outbreaks.
Diflucan has worked much better for us. Diflucan in its liquid form was prescribed for Emory. I was administered a single dose in pill form. Unlike the Nystatin, which is to be swabbed on the infected area, the Diflucan is to be ingested. Check with your pediatrician to determine if this option is right for you and baby.
It is important that all items that come in contact with infected skin be properly and frequently sterilized. Pacifiers, bottles, nipples, and pump parts should be sterilized using boiled water after each use. I love the Quick Clean Micro‑Steam Bags from Medela.
Nursing bras and burp clothes should be washed in hot water.
Lastly, make sure you’re properly washing your (& baby’s) hands. Improper care when changing soiled diapers and applying diaper rash ointment can lead to the spreading of oral thrush.