Of all the difficulties we face while breastfeeding, thrush can be the one of the most painful and difficult to alleviate. Thrush is a yeast infection of the nipples and/or mouth. Yeast naturally occurs in the body, but when our immune system is compromised or we have open skin areas, it’s easy for that yeast to take over, thus causing an infection. In Mom, symptoms are painful letdown, deep breast pain (it feels like pain flashing through your breast) painful nipples, and insane sugar craving (yeast lives off of sugar). Symptoms in Baby include being fussy at the breast, not wanting to nurse (it hurts) and white patches in the corners of the mouth, cheeks, and on the tongue that cannot be removed and bleed when scratched at. If you or your baby have these symptoms, it could be thrush. You can either start treating it naturally on your own, or you can seek assistance from your care provider.
To begin treating it on your own you can try these things:
-Grapefruit seed extract. Dilute 10-20 drops in a glass of water and drink 3-4 times a day. This has a bitter taste, just so you know. Some say to add it to juice, but juice has a TON of sugar, which feeds yeast, so I just sucked it up and dealt with the horrible taste. You can also dilute 10-20 drops in 1 ounce of water and wipe or spray the nipples with it and let air dry before and after each nursing session. This can also be swabbed in the baby’s mouth. You don’t need to wash it off before nursing again.
-Apple cider vinegar. Make sure it is raw and unfiltered. If it’s not it’s just regular vinegar with caramel coloring in it. (Sneaky, huh?) Add 1 TBSP to a glass of water and drink twice a day. You can also dilute 1TBSP in an ounce of water and use it as a rinse/spray as well. Make sure to use before and after nursing sessions. Let air dry and then apply a nipple cream to prevent drying out. DO NOT use lanolin. It will create a barrier and you’ll have a much harder time getting rid of the infection. This can also be swabbed in the baby’s mouth. You do not need to wash it off before nursing again.
-Coconut oil. Virgin, unrefined, cold pressed coconut oil. You can apply it directly to the nipples. It’s also highly effective to ingest. 3 TBSP a day is recommended. This is wonderful to use after a GSE or ACV rinse, and like the previous 2 things, does not need to be wiped off before nursing again.
-Garlic. Don’t use this on your nipples. LOL Take 2 garlic capsules with a meal twice a day. I would recommend using this WITH another method, not by itself. Some people also just eat raw garlic. I have done this. I love garlic. But not that much. LOL
-Gentian Violet. This is a plant based product that has amazing anti-fungal properties. HOWEVER, it has been linked to oral cancer and contains formaldehyde. I do not recommend it for this reason, but it’s an option. It’s available behind the pharmacist’s counter. Swab your nipples and baby’s mouth with it. Make sure it is DRY before putting clothing on. It stains everything it touches purple. This does make for cute pictures. Ha.
-Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment (AKA, APNO). I LOVE this stuff. It’s amazing for treating thrush, sore, and dry/cracked nipples. You can ask your care provider to prescribe it through a compounding pharmacy, but it’s expensive. You can make it on your own with things from any pharmacy. You will need a triple antibiotic ointment, an antifungal cream, and hydrocortisone cream. Blend equal amounts of each and put a sparing layer on each nipple after each nursing session. By sparing I mean thin enough to leave a shine and that’s it. This does not need to be washed off, even if your provider tells you it does.
-Motherlove diaper/thrush cream. This is available at Elegant Mommy or online. It is applied to the nipples after each nursing session. It says it does not need to be washed off before nursing again, but I would due to the yarrow it contains. Yarrow is not recommended for small babies to ingest.
-Kombucha tea. The living organisms in Kampuchea tea feed off of the yeast in your body. And it tastes yummy. Win/win!! It’s available commercially and very easy to make yourself as well.
-Probiotics. Probiotics help balance the flora in our body and will help to fight off a yeast overgrowth. Make sure the probiotics you are taking are from the refrigerator section of wherever you purchase them from. This keeps the ideal amount of good bacteria alive. You can also use probiotics in your infant. Simply open a capsule (or use powdered), wet your finger, dip it in the powder, and then put in your baby’s mouth. Ideally you want to apply it TO the white patches if there are any.
-Yogurt. NOT the flavored, colored stuff. That junk is full of sugar. You want regular yogurt. I’ve heard Greek works the best, but I haven’t personally tried it. Apply it to your nipples, and eat it. I would not give yogurt to a baby that isn’t already on solid foods unless you are starting solids anyway.
-Wash everything that comes in contact with your nipples or genital area in water higher than 122 after every use. Use towels, nursing pads, bras, and any other articles only once. You may also add grapefruit seed extract (just a few drops) to the rinse cycle of your wash if you want to, but it’s not necessary as the water temp that high will effectively kill yeast.
The MOST important thing is continue treating yourself for AT LEAST two weeks after symptoms are gone. Yeast is SNEAKY. If you do not continue to treat it this long after symptoms disappear it will likely come back. And it will be angry. Trust me.
If you have tried these things and have no luck, or if you aren’t comfortable going the natural route, your care provider can prescribe you Diflucan and either Diflucan or Nystatin for your baby. Nystatin is now recommended to be avoided, as it contains sugar and may actually make things worse. Make sure you are prescribed the correct dosage or you will not effectively get rid of the infection. The correct dosage is a 1 day push of 400mg, and then 100mg twice a day for at least 2 weeks after pain is gone. If your care provider is unsure of this protocol, it can be found at Dr. Jack Newman’s site. (The APNO mix is also found at this link)
If you have problems with it coming back, make sure your baby has a good latch. Irritated, cracked, or open nipples give the yeast a place of weakness to attack. If you are treating yourself, make sure you are treating your baby as well and vice versa. Cut out all sugar while treating thrush so you cut off it’s food supply. You may need to give up gluten as well if it’s a particularly bad infection. I have also heard that eliminating dairy helps.
Thrush is a jerk. I battled it for over 2 months before finally getting rid of it. If you think you may have thrush, start treating it as soon as possible. Allowing an infection to go untreated could cause permanent damage to your milk ducts.
By Jessica Tebben