Breastfeeding:  Do I have Thrush?

Many women suffer from thrush while breastfeeding.  Thrush is the result of an overgrowth of yeast, or candida albicans, in the body.   You should suspect thrush if you have been breastfeeding without pain and suddenly your nipples begin to hurt.  Since thrush is a yeast infection of the nipples and breasts, it is more likely to occur if you have had a vaginal yeast infection in the past couple of months or during your pregnancy. Recent antibiotic use by you or your baby can also make you more susceptible to thrush.  Thrush is usually diagnosed based on symptoms, as culturing yeast from the nipples or the milk is not very reliable.

Symptoms of thrush include:

Burning, stinging shooting pains in your nipples during and in between feeds.  The pain is often worse immediately after breastfeeding.

The pain may radiate deep into the breasts and even to your back.

The skin of your areolas may be red and shiny or flaking and scaling.  It may also look perfectly normal. 

Vasospasms, or Raynauds, of the nipples has similar symptoms to thrush and is often misdiagnosed as thrush.  Have your caregiver check you for both Raynauds and thrush before treating you for the wrong one.

If you have thrush on your nipples and in your breasts the baby is likely to have it in his mouth.  In fact it may have begun with your baby.  Symptoms of thrush in the baby include:

White patches on his tongue, gums, palate and inside of his cheeks.

He may have a severe diaper rash that does not respond to the usual treatments.

He may be fussy at the breast and often a clicking sound is heard while the baby nurses.

Thrush is very contagious and thrives in warm wet environments.  It is important that both you and your baby are treated even if only one of you is showing symptoms.  Otherwise you may just pass the infection back and forth.  Your doctor will prescribe an antifungal for your nipples and a different one for your baby's mouth and if needed for his bottom.