Thrush in Infants

What is Thrush?
Thrush is a fungal infection caused by the fungus Candida albicans. Thrush appears in your baby's mouth and forms white patches on the roof, sides and sometimes even the tongue. It resembles cottage cheese and some mothers initially mistake it for milk spit-up-until they try to wipe it away, that is. If you try to gently wipe the white patches away using gauze or a clean finger, you'll notice that the white patches come off. Underneath, you'll notice a red, raw area that may bleed.

Thrush usually strikes infants when they are two months old or younger, but it also often occurs in older infants.

Where Does Thrush Come From?
Thrush is a yeast infection that can be passed from mother to infant and vice versa. No one is sure of the exact cause, although there are many guesses as to what causes this infection.

Your baby can contract thrush as it passes through the vaginal canal during birth. Hormonal changes after childbirth will bring out thrush in your baby. Your baby may also catch thrush from breastfeeding. If you breastfeed your baby, be sure to let your nipples air dry between feedings; this prevents bacteria from festering.

How to Treat Thrush
If you think your baby has thrush, contact your pediatrician. The pediatrician can give you a prescription over the phone for an oral anti-fungal cream, such as Nystatin. Anti-fungal cream should be applied several times per day for about 10 days.

It is important that you seek immediate treatment for thrush. The white patches can be painful to your child and stand in the way of successful bottle or breastfeeding. This can lead to hunger and dehydration.

How Do I Prevent Thrush?
While some babies are simply prone to thrush and there's little you can do to prevent thrush, many cases of thrush in babies can be prevented. There are some simple steps you can follow, such as refraining from unnecessary use of antibiotics and keeping your own stress levels down. Thrush can also be caused by lack of proper sleep, allergies and cracked nipples due to poor latch on.

Thrush and Breastfeeding
Because the fungus that causes thrush thrives in warm, dark, wet, sugary places, it can easily transfer itself from your baby's mouth to your breast during breastfeeding. Signs that it has spread to your breasts include:

  • sore, cracked nipples
  • a vaginal yeast infection
  • shooting pains in your breasts during and after breastfeeding


To help ease your pain, many lactation consultants suggest using dye gentian violet one a day for five to seven days. You might also try applying Lotrimin AF to your nipples after every other feeding. If your pain persists after a week, contact your doctor and seek his advice. If you're dealing with severe pain, you can take an ibuprofen to subside your pain.

Also, remember that if you have thrush and are breast feeding, your baby probably needs treatment for thrush too.

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