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Thrush (Candida Albicans) is a fungal infection and can occur during breastfeeding, affecting mother, baby or both. It often happens after either one of you has been given antibiotics for an infection, or if the nipple becomes cracked and sore.

Signs of thrush in mum:

  • Sudden pain in the nipple or breast
  • The nipple may become itchy and become sensitive to touch
  • A feeling of a deep shooting pain deep within the breast; this occurs AFTER feeding, not during. If you have pain during a feed, your baby may not be attached properly.
  • The nipple or areola (the dark skin) may change colour
  • The nipple may look very cracked and does not seem to heal
  • Pain may be in both breasts as the baby can pass on the infection from one breast to the other
  • Occasionally there are no major signs of infection and no pain is felt whilst feeding your baby

There are other reasons for nipple pain though:

  • Baby may not be attached properly, causing sore and cracked nipples
  • Eczema or rash on breast
  • The baby may have a tongue tie

Signs of thrush in baby

  • Creamy white patches can be seen on the baby's tongue or inside the mouth which do not rub off
  • You might see a white shiny patch on his/her tongue that does not come off
  • Baby does not feed well at the breast, this is because his/her mouth is sore
  • Baby may become irritable and be more windy than normal If the infection is passed through his/her body, there may be a nappy rash that seems hard to get rid of.

Self help information

  • Thrush can be easily passed between you, your baby, your partner and other children.
  • Make sure you wash the breast area regularly if you have thrush, and do not share towels with anyone else.
  • Make sure you wash your hands after changing your baby's nappy.
  • If your baby has a dummy, or is also having a bottle as well as breastfeeding, make sure these are sterilised properly by boiling for at least 20 minutes.
  • Make sure you continue to breastfeed, and take painkillers if necessary. By stopping feeding, you could encounter more problems such as Mastitis.
  • If you have expressed any milk during the time of the infection, throw it away as it could cause your baby to get another bout of thrush.

If you have expressed any milk during the time of the infection, throw it away as it could cause your baby to get another bout of thrush.

Medical help

  • Both mums and babies should be treated even though only one of you may show signs of infection
  • The Breastfeeding Network (BfN) recommends that GP's should prescribe an antifungal to treat thrush for at least 10 days, as well as a cream such as Daktarin that is applied to the nipples following a feed for 2-3 weeks.
  • Babies can be prescribed Daktarin as long as they are over 4 months. The gel is rubbed around the cheeks and tongue using a clean finger. This should be applied for 2 weeks, even though signs of thrush may have disappeared.
  • Health visitors and doctors can prescribe Nystatin drops to babies from birth
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