How To Prevent Thrush When You're Breastfeeding

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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 breastfeeding problem. It is a yeast infection, also known as fungal infection or Candida. Thrush can develop on your breasts and in your baby's mouth. It's usually not a serious condition, but it can spread quickly, and it's tough to treat. The best way to combat thrush is to try to prevent it right from the start. 

Thrush and Breastfeeding

Thrush can get in the way of successful breastfeeding.

Not only is a yeast infection on your nipples painful, so you may not want to continue breastfeeding, but, if it's in your baby's mouth and it hurts, your little one may refuse to nurse.

What Causes Thrush?

Some women are more likely to develop thrush than others. If you get frequent vaginal yeast infections, you have to take antibiotics, you have diabetes, or you begin to take birth control pills, your chances of developing thrush are even higher. However, by understanding how candida grows and spreads, you can reduce your risk of contracting it. Here are eight tips for preventing thrush.

How to Prevent Thrush

  • The best defense against thrush is good hand washing. You should wash your hands often especially before breastfeeding, after using the bathroom, and after changing your baby's diaper. By regularly washing your hands, you can prevent the spread of many common illnesses including thrush.
     
  • If you wear breast pads to soak up leaks, don't get the ones that have plastic or waterproof liners. Nursing 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 breast pads made from natural fibers.
     
  • Make sure you change your breast pads often. Nursing pads saturated with breast milk provide the perfect warm, dark, sugary environment for organisms such as yeast to grow.
     
  • Change your nursing bra every day and whenever it gets wet. And, 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 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 instructions for care that comes with your pump.
     
  • Add probiotics, or yogurt containing active cultures, to your daily diet. These products can help your body keep the growth of yeast under control. 
     
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced 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.
     

What to Do if You or Your Baby Get Thrush

If you notice any of the signs of thrush on your breasts or in your child'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 other children and your husband or sexual partner may also need treatment because a yeast infection can spread quickly and easily through contact.

 

Sources:

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

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

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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