There’s absolutely nothing special or unique about a case of thrush. It’s actually the same exact type of Candida yeast infection that women get in their vaginas, men get in their penises, and babies get when they have a bad diaper rash. The only difference is the name and the locations. Thrush is the name given for yeast infections that occur in the mouths of babes and in and around the nipples of breastfeeding women. Another name for thrush is oropharyngeal candidiasis. It is almost always caused by the yeast Candida albicans, and it is quite frequently a pretty darn unpleasant experience. If you are currently suffering from yeasty nipples, your baby is suffering from oral thrush, or both, you have my deepest sympathies…it can’t be pleasant.
Perhaps the only good thing about thrush (besides the fact that you can continue breastfeeding during the malady) is that it can, and often does, go away on its own. The symptoms of thrush, however, can be excruciating while they’re there. For this reason, most people become intent upon learning how to get rid of thrush as quickly as possible. On the other hand, thrush can come and go with very little notice. But since you’re here reading this, I feel it’s safe to assume that this hasn’t been the case. And so, I put together this article on how to get rid of thrush. As you read, keep in mind that it is important to treat both yourself and your child. Reinfection is common and you don’t want to be inadvertently passing it back and forth between the two of you.
Thrush Symptoms for Mom
- Itchy nipples
- Burning nipples
- Red or pink nipples
- Shiny or flaky skin on aerolas
- Rash-ridden nipples
- Cracked/bleeding nipples
- Shooting pain during or after breastfeeding
- Deep breast pain
Thrush Symptoms for Baby
- Milky white patches inside cheeks and on the tongue, roof of mouth, lips, and/or gums
- Sore mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Diaper rash
- Loss of appetite
- Clicking during nursing
Best Thrush Treatments & Care
If you have the time, the insurance, and the desire, I would strongly recommend that you get yourself and your baby to the doctor’s office. Nystatin is the most highly recommended treatment for thrush that I’ve run across. This drug is an antifungal that comes in different forms (drops, ointments, etc.) to be used both in your child’s mouth and on your breasts.
The first thing you should do is to prepare, and keep prepared, a simple nipple wash of 1 tablespoon vinegar to one cup of water. The vinegar adds a slight acidity that is deadly for yeast. Use this rinse on your nipples both before and after a feeding. It is also important to keep your nipples dry. Wear loose light clothing and don’t use nursing pads with plastic coatings. They trap moisture and do not allow the skin to breathe. Also, if you have a place to do it that won’t cause a scandal throughout the neighborhood, try to let the ladies fly free in the sun (sunlight is tough on yeast) for about five minutes a day. More if possible.
One of the best things you can do to help treat thrush is to start eating lots of plain, unsweetened yogurt. Even better would be to take Acidophilus capsules (sold at Amazon). Acidophilus is a bacteria that occurs naturally in your body and is also found in high concentrations in yogurt. By increasing your intake of this healthy bacteria, you will help your body to get and keep the thrush under control. Also, since yeast thrives on sugars, lower your intake of them. Avoid soda, candy, fruit, honey, bread, pasta, and dairy products (except for yogurt), and stick to eating meats and vegetables for awhile. Finally, start taking a multivitamin to help give your immune system a little boost.
Because of the highly infectious nature of an oral yeast infection, it is very important to do everything you can to kill the little yeasty beasties that may be lurking around and lying in wait. Start by washing both your and your child’s clothing in hot soapy water and drying them with as much heat as your dryer can muster. Do the same thing with bed sheets. Be sure to only wear bras once between washings, and don’t reuse washcloths, hand towels, or bath towels.
While I would definitely not recommend boiling your nipples, I do strongly recommend that you boil anything else that has a tendency to end up in Baby’s mouth. This includes, but is not limited to, bottles, bottle nipples, pacifiers, breast pump parts, and toys. Allow things to boil for twenty minutes. For a little added umph, dump some vinegar into the mix. If you are filling a large pot with water, add about half a cup of vinegar. Don’t worry too much about the measurements, though. If in doubt, add a little more.
Chances are you’ve probably been to the doctor recently. I say this because while it’s obviously not the only cause of thrush, a thrush infection often shows up after taking antibiotics (that you got from the doctor) that kill bacteria with indiscriminate passion. So, since you’re already well familiarized with how to get to the doctor and what to do once you’re there, go back. Turns out that oral candidiasis has been plaguing women for millennia. Bad for women, good for the drug industry. It does, however, make things kinda good for you too. And this, my dear, is because if one prescription oral thrush treatment fails you, there are others to try. It just so happens that there are a number of prescription remedies for thrush. If you’ve already tried Nystatin and it didn’t work out for you, you can also ask your doc about thrush treatments like Nizoral, Diflucan, or APNO (All Purpose Nipple Ointment). If, on the other hand, the thought of going back to the doctor makes your nipples hurt even worse, take a quick trip to the drugstore and pick yourself up some Lotrimin AF, Micatin, or Monistat 7. They too are good for treating a thrush yeast infection.
Best Natural Thrush Remedies
In my research, I ran across this as a suggested treatment for thrush more than anything else, even more than prescription thrush remedies. This antifungal is applied by painting the lips, inside of the baby’s mouth, and the mother’s nipples using a cotton swab, gauze pad, or fingers. The stuff works very well but has a tendency to stain clothing, sheets, dogs, cats, and anything else it comes into contact with. It can be found online and at most natural food stores.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a natural astringent that is derived from the Australian Ti Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) and is often used as a thrush remedy. While it is not generally recommended to be used for oral use, it works very well for killing Candida yeast when wiping down nipples after breastfeeding. We recommend Maple Holistics Tea Tree Oil from Amazon.
Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE)
This stuff is pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be. It’s made from ground-up grapefruit seeds and grapefruit pulp, concentrated, and sprinkled with a dash of glycerin. GSE is a broad spectrum antimicrobial agent and is reported to work quite well to treat thrush.