Gentian Violet for Thrush

Pair of gentians
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Gentian violet has been a long time solution for thrush in both breastfeeding babies and nursing mothers. 

Dr. Jack Newman has been a long time advocate for using this solution on the breasts, and in the baby's mouth. Nystatin is a prescription that is often used for treating thrush in infants and is a typical first line of defense from many pediatricians. You may have to ask about gentian violet treatment.

Dr. Newman says, "Gentian violet (1% solution in water) is an excellent treatment for Candida albicans. Candida albicans is a yeast which may cause an infection of skin and/or mucus membranes in both children and adults." 

Gentian violet is purple, hence the name. It will also stain everything it touches, including your skin. To prevent staining things, be sure to have an old bra, disposable nursing pads for mom. For baby, you may wish to use disposable diapers if you were previously using cloth. This should only take a few days. 

Use a cotton swab to paint the nipples. If you nurse the baby immediately afterwards, they are usually getting enough gentian violet to cover their mouths. You can also let the baby suck on the cotton swab for a second to cover most of their mouth and then feed your baby. (As a hint, you can put chap stick or unpetroleum jelly on their lips first. This prevents them from staining their face.) The skin that is exposed will stay purple for a few days but it is not permanent.

You and baby should both be purple by the end of the feeding. Do this once a day for four days. If you do not have relief by then, do not use gentian violet any more and seek help from your doctor or midwife.

"I didn't have any gentian violet so a friend gave me a tiny bit in the bottom of a cup. It was plenty to treat my baby and myself for a few days," explains one mom.

"When I was done, I rinsed the cup out and poured it down the drain. I then put the cup in the dishwasher. When the cycle was through, our entire dishwasher was a light shade of purple. We called it our anti-yeast cycle. There was only a tiny bit in the cup - wow!"

If you use a breast pump, pacifiers, or any other things that go on the breasts or in the baby's mouth, you will want to sterilize those for a few days. Simply boil them in water after use or use the sterilizing bags.

When gentian violet is used too often or for longer period, some infants have developed ulcers in their mouths.


Gentian Violet. Newman, J. Kernerman, E. 2009.

Thrush. Ask Dr. Sears.

Is gentian violet safe? Phillips V. J Hum Lact. 1993 Mar;9(1):7-8.

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