Thrush is a yeast infection that grows in the mouth. Yeast, which is scientifically known as the Candida fungus, can also lead to diaper rashes in babies and vaginal infections in women. Oral thrush in babies is common, but it can make feedings difficult and even cause you to contract an infection if you’re breastfeeding.
How Babies Get Thrush
Yeast can be passed onto your baby through your birth canal. Yeast infections are extremely common in women and Candida can be more intrusive during periods of hormonal change. Pregnancy completely alters a woman’s hormonal balance, so it’s not at all improbable for Candida to be present at the time of birth.
Because of this, oral yeast infections are most common among infants two months old and younger. Babies who are on antibiotics may also develop an infection, since it’s usually fought off by microorganisms, which antibiotics destroy.
Your baby may also get a Candida infection if you do not clean and dry your breast after a feeding. Yeast can grow from the moisture, and the fungus can be passed into your baby’s mouth later. Pacifiers and bottles will only cause Candida to spread due to an increase of moisture and saliva.
Signs of a Yeast Infection in Babies
Your baby may seem fussier than usual when you try to feed them because the infection makes it uncomfortable. If you look inside their mouths, you will notice white patches on their tongue. This could also be caused by milk or formula, but if it doesn’t wipe off with a soft cloth or go away on its own within an hour, it’s most likely an infection.
If you are able to gently remove the white patch, but your baby’s tongue is raw and red, then it is not simply residue. You may also notice a white tint to their saliva, clicking sounds while they feed, their refusing to eat, and a diaper rash.
How to Avoid Yeast Infections
The best way to avoid passing Candida onto your baby is to always ensure your breast is dry after a feeding. You should also thoroughly wash your baby’s pacifiers and bottles. You won’t be able to prevent a yeast infection if your baby is exposed to Candida in the birth canal, so don’t blame yourself or feel guilty if your newborn contracted it this way.
For breastfeeding moms, drying and cleaning is the most important, especially since yeast infections can be passed between mother and infant. Change your nursing pads regularly, and make sure you wash your bras in hot water. Sterilize your breast pumps, bottles and other feeding-related equipment.
You should also avoid going on antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, as yeast infections are more common when you have less good bacteria in your system.
Treating Candida Infections in Babies
If you suspect that you or your baby has a yeast infection, see a doctor right away. Early intervention is important to prevent spreading the fungus further. The doctor will most likely prescribe you and your baby an antifungal medication and possibly a cream to apply to your nipples.
You can still continue breastfeeding when you have a yeast infection, but it will most likely be difficult. You may find it easier to use sterile bottles with breast milk while you wait for the infection to clear up. Talk to your doctor about taking probiotics to speed up your recovery.