Breastfeeding: How To Prevent Thrush

Wash your hands often to help prevent the spread of many common illnesses including thrush.. STOCK4B-RF/Getty Images

What is Thrush?

Thrush is a common problem of breastfeeding. It is a yeast (fungal) infection, also known as Candida, that can develop on your breasts and in your baby's mouth. It's usually not a serious condition, but it can spread easily and it can be difficult to get rid of. Thrush can also interfere with breastfeeding. A fungal infection on your nipples can be painful, so you may not want to continue breastfeeding.

And, if your baby's mouth hurts, he may refuse to nurse.

Some women are more likely to develop thrush than others. If you get frequent vaginal yeast infections, you have to take antibiotics, you are diabetic, or you begin to take birth control pills, your chances of developing thrush go up. But, by understanding how candida grows and spreads, you can reduce your risk of contracting it. Here are 8 tips to help prevent thrush.

How To Prevent Thrush

  • Good hand washing is very important. You should wash your hands often especially before breastfeeding, after using the bathroom, and after changing your baby's diaper. Washing your hands regularly can prevent the spread of many common illnesses including thrush.
  • Do not wear nursing pads that have plastic or waterproof liners. Pads made with plastic liners do not allow air to circulate to the skin around your breasts and nipples. They also hold in moisture. Instead, use unlined disposable pads or reusable pads made from natural fibers.
  • Change your nursing pads often. Nursing pads that are saturated with breast milk provide the perfect warm, dark, sugary environment for organisms to grow.
  • Change your nursing bra every day and whenever it gets wet. Wash your bras, clothes, and linens in hot water to keep them clean and fresh.
  • Avoid using any type of nipple cream on your breasts unless it is necessary. Nipple creams, lotions and ointments can hold in moisture and allow bacteria and fungus to develop.
  • Keep anything that comes in contact with your baby and/or your breasts clean. Wash toys, pacifiers, teethers, bottles, and nipples in hot, soapy water. You should also regularly clean the washable parts of your breast pump by following the manufacturers instructions for care.
  • Add probiotics, or yogurt containing active cultures, to your daily diet. These products can help your body to keep the growth of yeast under control. 
  • Eat a healthy, breastfeeding diet and limit the amount of sugar and empty calorie foods that you consume. A diet high in sugar may increase your risk of a yeast infection especially if you are more prone to getting them.

If you notice any of the signs of thrush on your breasts or in your baby's mouth, call your doctor and your baby's doctor. You will both need to be treated to prevent passing the infection back and forth to each other. Your husband or sexual partner may also need to be treated because a yeast infection can spread quickly and easily through contact.


Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.

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