Thrush is a common infection seen mostly in babies six months old or younger. You have germs that normally live on or in your body. One of these germs is a yeast called Candida albicans. With a normal immune system, your body keeps these germs in check. Unfortunately, your little one’s immune system is still forming, and they may not be able to keep the yeast in check. When the yeast flourishes in your baby’s mouth, it causes thrush. If you are breastfeeding, your baby can spread the thrush to you. Thrush can also affect formula-fed babies.
You may notice that your little one has white or yellow patches inside their mouth. These patches are found on the inner cheeks, tongue, lips, gums and the roof of the mouth. Cracks on the corners of the mouth are also common. In extreme cases, the patches can extend into the esophagus and cause painful swallowing.
As the sores in your baby’s mouth get irritated, they can crack and bleed. If you have thrush affecting your nipples, these can also crack and bleed, leading to small amounts of blood. You may notice that while feeding, your milk develops a pink tint. This will not hurt your baby, but it is a sign that something is wrong, and you and your baby need treatment for the thrush.
With an increase in Candida albicans in the mouth, it is also common to spread to other areas of the body. Baby’s with thrush often develop a diaper rash at the same time. If you notice any symptoms in the mouth and your baby has a diaper rash as well, this is often a good indication that thrush may be the culprit.
Sores in your baby’s mouth can be painful and often they will not be interested in feeding. This creates concern as babies need regular feeding to grow and thrive. If you notice your baby becomes fussy during feeding or is simply refusing to nurse, this is a sign to call your pediatrician immediately. If the thrush is bad enough to interfere with feeding, it is critical to get treatment right away.
In addition to your baby’s symptoms, you may find that you are the first one to notice possible thrush. Even before your baby develops noticeable sores, you may experience breast tenderness and pain while nursing. You may feel a sharp pain when your baby latches on or finding that their sucking motion is almost unbearable. This is a good indication that your baby passed the excess Candida albicans on to you.
Along with breast tenderness and pain, changes in the appearance of your nipples are common. You may find they are darker red in appearance or even look swollen. If you take a close look at your nipples, you may notice they are dry, and the skin may crack. It is not uncommon for these cracks to bleed and be very sore.
If you notice any of these symptoms, it is a good idea to give your pediatrician a call. Often thrush will go away on its own in a few days, but if symptoms persist it will require treatment. If the thrush interferes with feeding and your baby is unwilling to nurse, you need to contact the doctor immediately. Missed feedings are not good for growing babies, and the thrush needs to have immediate treatment.
In most cases, your pediatrician will diagnose thrush with a simple look inside your baby’s mouth. In some cases, scrapings from the sores are put under a microscope or taken for a culture, but this typically only occurs when treatment for the thrush doesn’t work to bring it back to normal levels.
Some cases of oral thrush require no treatment and go away on their own. Whether your doctor decides to treat or not will depend on the level of the infection and how it is affecting feeding. Treatment is the application of an antifungal solution that is painted in your baby’s mouth. If you are breastfeeding, this solution is also used on the nipples. If your baby is older and eating some solid foods, your doctor may suggest adding yogurt with lactobacilli to their diet.
Because yeast is a normal part of the body, avoiding thrush isn’t always possible. Some things you can do to reduce the risk include keeping bottles and nipples clean and sterilized, along with pacifiers and toys. Change diapers often to help prevent increased yeast and diaper rashes. If you notice changes and cracking with your nipples, be sure to treat them before passing to your baby.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.