Breastfeeding and Thrush – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

6 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Breastfeeding And Thrush

Have you ever witnessed white patches on your baby’s mouth? Well, this may be a sign of thrush. Yes, thrush is a yeast infection that might occur sometimes in breastfed babies. Did you know that breastfeeding and thrush in babies are closely related?  Thrush in babies can happen when the mother is suffering from thrush in their nipples, especially when the mother’s nipples are cracked and sore. This even causes pain to a breastfeeding mother in her breast as well as nipples.

When a baby gets a thrush in their mouth or tongue, this is referred to as oral thrush. This can be painful for babies who can get cranky or fussy while breastfeeding. Babies suffering from thrush face difficulty in latching or pain during breastfeeding. When the breastfeeding mother is suffering from nipple thrush, she can experience symptoms such as cracked nipples which act as a hotspot for the fungus. When the baby breastfeeds, the infection passes though the milk into the baby’s body resulting in oral thrush in the baby.

In This Article

What is Thrush?

Thrush is a yeast infection or a fungal infection that can occur in the mouth, throat and other parts of the body. Thrush that occurs in the mouth is often referred to as oral thrush or candidiasis.  As per the CDC, usually, the fungus named candida can survive on the body and inside without causing any problems. But during certain conditions such as reduced immunity or an ideal environment for the fungi to multiply, thrush happens.

What Causes Thrush?

As we mentioned earlier, thrush is caused by a bacteria known as candida. This fungus is generally harmless but can get activated in moist conditions, when the balance of good bacteria in the body reduces or when the immunity is down.

Some of the common causes of thrush according to the NHS include:

  • Cracks, wounds or irritation on the skin that can act as an entry point for the fungus.
  • Low immune system due to a recent infection or diseases that can compromise the immune system.
  • A course of antibiotics that can reduce the good bacteria.
  • Diabetes that is not properly controlled.

Signs and Symptoms of Thrush in Breastfeeding Mothers

Symptoms of Thrush in Breastfeeding Mothers

Many women get the initial symptoms of thrush when they witness pain in the breasts or the nipples and when their baby denies being breastfed. There are many other signs and symptoms which can be seen which indicate that you have a thrush infection.

Signs and symptoms of thrush in breastfeeding mothers include

  • Sharp, shooting pain in both nipples.
  • Pain that lasts for more than an hour after breastfeeding.
  • Sensitive and itchy breasts.
  • Red and flaky nipples with a burning sensation.
  • Cracked skin near the areola and nipples.

Signs and symptoms of oral thrush in breastfed babies include

  • Appearance of white creamy spots inside the mouth in various parts such as the tongue, cheek, roof of the mouth etc. that don’t come off even after wiping.
  • White glossy patches on the baby’s lips and tongue.
  • Refusal to feed, lower milk intake and restlessness between feeds.

How Can Nipple Thrush be Diagnosed in Breastfeeding Mothers?

Your doctor will be able to diagnose nipple thrush by examining your breasts. They will be able to correlate the physical examination with the symptoms you have been experiencing. They may also take a look at your baby’s mouth to look out for any possible signs that you may have oral thrush. If your baby also is showing symptoms of thrush, the doctor may confirm the nipple thrush diagnosis.

Your doctor may also collect swabs from your nipples and your baby’s mouth and send them to the lab for medical examination to confirm thrush.

Can I Breastfeed if I Have Nipple Thrush?

Can I Breastfeed if I Have Nipple Thrush?

Yes, it is safe to breastfeed if you have nipple thrush. You can talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant if you have any questions. If the breastfeeding process is causing you pain and trouble, you can express the milk and feed it to your baby instead. When expressing, ensure to feed your baby immediately. Do not store or freeze such milk for later use. If your baby is young and less than 6 months old, you must continue feeding your breast milk either through breastfeeding or by expressing.

[Read : Pumping And Expressing Breast Milk]

Tips to Prevent Thrush in Breastfeeding Mothers

Tips to Prevent Thrush in Breastfeeding Mothers

Here are a few pointers that can help prevent thrush

  • Maintain hygiene, wash your hands well before and after breastfeeding and after every diaper change.
  • It is important to keep your nipples dry after every breastfeeding session. Read here to know some easy tips for nipple care during breastfeeding.
  • Eat healthy and maintain a balanced diet.
  • Reduce your sugar intake, especially if you have diabetes. Sugars encourage the thriving of candidiasis bacteria.
  • Use breathable bras and nursing pads that allow breathability. Plastic pads can lock in moisture and act as a breeding ground for candida.
  • Eating probiotic-rich food such as yogurt or supplementing probiotics is a good way of keeping thrush at bay.

[Read : Healthy Diet For Breastfeeding Mothers]

What Are the Treatment Options Available For Thrush?

applying anti-fungal ointment on her nipple

Thrush is one of the conditions that needs to be treated immediately as there are high chances of infection recurrence. Here are some of the treatment options for thrush for you and your baby.

Treatment For the Breastfeeding Mother

  • The doctor may prescribe anti-fungal ointment for you to apply on your nipples. Such ointments must be applied after every breastfeeding session. In case you are using these creams, do ensure to clean your breasts properly before every breastfeeding session.
  • Your doctor may also prescribe anti-fungal medications that must be taken orally.
  • In case you experience excess pain while breastfeeding, your doctor may prescribe mild painkillers that are allowed during the breastfeeding period.
  • Your doctor may also change your diabetes medications and advice you to control your sugar intake if you have diabetes.
  • Some doctors also prescribe probiotic supplement medications to help you recover quickly.

Treatment For the Baby

The pediatrician may recommend anti-fungal ointments that you can safely apply to your baby in the infected areas inside the mouth.

Do remember that all these medications must be strictly taken under medical supervision. Self-medication is unsafe for you and your baby as well.

When Should You Consider Seeing a Doctor?

If you observe any signs of thrush in you and/or in your baby, you must meet the doctor immediately. Thrush can spread very quickly and chances of this infection coming back are very high.

If you are a breastfeeding mother with nipple thrush, you have a high chance of transmitting it to your baby. It is always good to take precautions that will help you avoid this fungal infection. If you happen to get it, or if your baby gets it, do consult the doctor immediately and take the medications as prescribed by the doctor. The condition is absolutely treatable if you see the doctor on time.

[Read : Mastitis]


1. Can You Breastfeed With a Nipple Thrush?

Yes, you can continue breastfeeding even if you are diagnosed with thrush.

2. Will Breast Thrush Go Away by Itself?

Breast thrush may sometimes go away on its own, but it is important to get the necessary treatment after talking to your doctor as well as your pediatrician. The chances of recurrence of this infection are very high.

3. Can You Express Milk During Thrush?

Yes, you can feed your baby with expressed milk during thrush but make sure that it is not frozen or stored. Always feed fresh expressed milk and throw way any leftovers.

4. What Does Beast Thrush Look Like?

Your nipples might become brighter, and shinier, and your areolas may grow red causing them to get dry and flaky. Itchiness and pain in the nipple area are also common symptoms.

5. What is the Difference Between Thrush and Mastitis?

Well, both of these are common conditions in breastfeeding moms. Thrush is a yeast infection that can pass to your baby and requires antifungal medication whereas mastitis is an inflammation that is caused by a clogged milk duct that can get infected.

Read Also: Symptoms And Treatment Of Thrush In Babies

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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