How do I treat nipple thrush?

Thrush (Candida) is a yeast infection that can be passed back and forth between your nipples and your baby's mouth.

Symptoms may include the following:

  • Pink or red (unusually so) nipples that may or may nor be cracked or rashy. Nipples may not have any visible symptoms.
  • A burning sensation on nipples and possibly a deep stabbing or shooting pain within the breast.
  • Your baby may have white patches in her mouth that do not come off when lightly wiped at.
  • You may also be experiencing a vaginal yeast infection or your baby might have a yeast rash (a bright red or pink nappy rash that might be peeling or resemble a burn).
  • Pain caused by thrush generally is constant throughout a nursing session.

Some things to know about thrush:

  • If you or your baby have been on antibiotics recently, and you have some of the above symptoms, suspect thrush. The use of antibiotics can trigger yeast infections.
  • Treatment for thrush takes several forms. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to treat you both, usually a topical ointment for your nipples and a syrup liquid for the baby's mouth. There are also some effective over-the-counter treatments available. Even without treatment, thrush will sometimes go away on its own, however I would emphatically recommend treatment as it can be painful and may eventually be detrimental to breastfeeding. Occasionally thrush just seems impossible to get rid of, and you can keep passing it back and forth if either you or your baby didn't get properly treated.
  • Contact your doctor or a lactation consultant to verify thrush. Thrush is quite common and does NOT mean you should stop nursing.

Things you can do that may help prevent or get rid of thrush:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Yeast thrives in dampness and warmth, so air your breasts often throughout the day and at night. Change your breast pads FREQUENTLY and do not use plastic lined pads. You might consider using disposable pads until the thrush is gone if you use cotton pads.
  • Wash your bras, breast pads, nightgowns and other clothing that have come in contact with the breast in hot water. Boil any items that baby’s mouth has been in contact with for five minutes or replace to avoid re-infection.
  • Try rinsing your nipples several times a day with a mild vinegar solution (1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon distilled vinegar) Air dry.
  • Many people have found that eliminating yeast and sugar from their diets can help avoid Candida infections and/or speed up recovery from them.
  • Eat yogurt that has acidophilus in it or take acidophilus capsules. This can also be used as a preventative measure if you need to take oral antibiotics. Often if you take acidophilus while you are taking the antibiotics it can stave off a yeast infection. You can also try applying yogurt containing acidophilus to your nipples, and even your baby's bottom if he has a yeast rash there too but creams containing zinc oxide work best for Nappy rash

Yeast is certainly not fun! But, if you follow these tips, you should be on your way to healthy nipples again. And, more importantly, you can prevent this annoying problem from ever happening again in the future.

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