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Thrush, a yeast infection often caused by Candida, can affect both infants and mothers during breastfeeding. It’s a common issue that typically resolves on its own with some self-care. This article will explore the causes, symptoms, and home remedies for infant thrush. It also touches on indications that it’s time to consult a physician for antifungal treatment.

What is Infant Thrush?

Thrush is a common condition that primarily affects the mouth and tongue of infants. It is widely believed to be caused by the overgrowth of some types of candida yeasts (1).

It can be passed to a mother’s nipples during breastfeeding (2). Although it often clears up on its own, when left untreated it can lead to discomfort for both the baby and mother. Self-care is an ideal first line of intervention for mothers to avoid overtreatment with antifungals and disruption of normal flora (3). 

Symptoms in Infants

Recognizing the signs of thrush in infants is crucial for early intervention. 

Common Symptoms

  • Redness Inside the Mouth: Red patches inside the mouth, sometimes accompanied by white sores.
  • Irritability: Babies with thrush may be fussy, irritable, and have difficulty settling.
  • Feeding Difficulties: Due to discomfort, babies might refuse to nurse or be fussy at the breast.
  • Diaper Rash: Thrush can cause bright red diaper rashes and/or rashes in skin creases.
  • Minimal Symptoms: In mild cases, thrush may present with minimal or subtle symptoms.

Self-Care For Mothers

For mothers, managing their nipple health and comfort is vital for both their comfort and their baby’s well-being. Read our self-care tips below.

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Tips

  • A mother nurses her baby.Continue Breastfeeding: Maintain your breastfeeding routine as usual.
  • Dietary Considerations: Minimize processed foods and sugar in your diet. This is always important but is especially relevant when fighting thrush as candida thrives on high blood sugar (1). Opt for balanced meals with fat, protein, and fiber. Read more about a healthy diet here: The Basis Of Anti-Inflammatory Eating For The Whole Family.
  • Nipple Hygiene: Allow your nipples to air dry before covering back up between breastfeeding sessions. Moist environments can encourage the growth of candida.
  • Herbal Ointments: Consider using topical herbal ointments to soothe and protect sore nipples. It is very important to ensure the ointments are safe for babies or thoroughly remove all residue before nursing. 

Thrush Care for Infants

Caring for infants with thrush is essential for their comfort and well-being. Read on for our infant care tips.

Tips

  • Continue Feeding: Whether through breastfeeding or formula feeding, continue to feed your baby.
  • Sterilization: Ensure that all items that go into your baby’s mouth, such as toys, bottles, nipples, and pacifiers, are properly sterilized to avoid reintroducing candida to your baby.
  • Skin Care: Keep your baby’s skin, especially in creases and diaper areas, dry and clean to prevent candida from spreading.
  • Medical Consultation: If thrush interferes with feeding or symptoms persist, consult a healthcare provider. Conventional antifungal medications are often recommended for infants. It is our opinion that conventional antifungal medication is safer and more effective than natural antifungal medication in infants. 

Supporting A Healthy Microbiome

Supporting a healthy microbiome can be beneficial for both mothers and infants (5). Probiotics can help restore a healthy diversity of good bacteria in the microbiome. 

When To See A Doctor

Most cases of infant thrush resolve within a couple of days. If any of the following signs are applicable to you or your infant, please consult a doctor.

Signs

  • Symptoms Persist: symptoms persist after 2-3 days of home care.
  • Frequent Recurrence: your child frequently experiences thrush.
  • Refusal To Eat: your baby is refusing to eat or is not eating enough.
  • Nipple Symptoms: you have symptoms of candida infection on your nipples.
  • Mother and Baby: both you and your baby have thrush; treatment is imperative to prevent passing the infection back and forth.

For more breastfeeding support, see: Mastitis 101: Symptoms, Home Remedies, and When to Seek Medical Attention or 12 Ways To Increase Breast Milk Production.

Summary

Infant thrush is a common condition that can usually be self managed with proper care. By recognizing the symptoms and following self-care measures, you can often provide relief for your baby and yourself. However, in many cases, antifungal medication is needed. Conventional antifungal medication is safe and effective when used correctly. When in doubt, consult with a healthcare provider for guidance.

References:

  1. Vainionpää, A., Tuomi, J., Kantola, S., & Anttonen, V. (2019). Neonatal thrush of newborns: Oral candidiasis?. Clinical and experimental dental research, 5(5), 580–582. https://doi.org/10.1002/cre2.213
  2. Plachouri, K. M., Mulita, F., Oikonomou, C., Papadopoulou, M., Akrida, I., Vryzaki, E., Verras, G. I., & Georgiou, S. (2022). Nipple candidiasis and painful lactation: an updated overview. Postepy dermatologii i alergologii, 39(4), 651–655. https://doi.org/10.5114/ada.2022.116837
  3. Douglas P. (2021). Overdiagnosis and overtreatment of nipple and breast candidiasis: A review of the relationship between diagnoses of mammary candidiasis and Candida albicans in breastfeeding women. Women’s health (London, England), 17, 17455065211031480. https://doi.org/10.1177/17455065211031480
  4. Mohammed, L., Jha, G., Malasevskaia, I., Goud, H. K., & Hassan, A. (2021). The Interplay Between Sugar and Yeast Infections: Do Diabetics Have a Greater Predisposition to Develop Oral and Vulvovaginal Candidiasis?. Cureus, 13(2), e13407. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.13407
  5. Tremblay, A., Xu, X., Colee, J., & Tompkins, T. A. (2021). Efficacy of a Multi-Strain Probiotic Formulation in Pediatric Populations: A Comprehensive Review of Clinical Studies. Nutrients, 13(6), 1908. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13061908
Dr. Green Mom

Dr. Mayer is a naturopathic medical doctor and an expert in nutrition and wellness as it relates to pediatrics and families. Her passion for prevention of disease as cure fueled her desire to immerse herself into specializing in adult onset chronic conditions as well as childhood chronic illness.

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