Life as a Doula, Journey of a Woman

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Common Breastfeeding Challenges: Breastfeeding and thrush

Porridge Oats


Thrush is the name for a yeast infection usually caused by the strain Candida albicans.  This is a fungal organism commonly found in the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and vagina of healthy women.
The presence of your gut bacteria keeps the growth of Candida in check, so anything that disturbs your body's normal flora like diabetes, illness, antibiotic therapy, can allow this fungal fiend to thrive.

This is why have I put this picture of my breakfast porridge (in its very beautiful blue bowl) in a blog about breastfeeding and thrush...oat bran is blooming brilliant at supporting hormonal situations like breastfeeding and also at feeding one's natural gut flora and fauna which help to keep thrush at bay.

Thrush often manifests after a course of antibiotics, which kill the protective gut bacteria.  Oral contraceptives and steroids can also predispose you to thrush, as can cracked or damaged nipples.

Every week in the drop-in clinics, I will see mums who wonder if the cause of their nipple pain might be thrush.  Some mention deep breast sensations and pain.  Especially in the early days when thrush is uncommon, I always ask about antibiotic use in her or her baby, and whether she has suffered cracked or damaged nipples, or if she is a regular sufferer.  Some mums feel the filling of their breasts with milk quite strongly, and wonder if this indicates thrush, or if it's just a normal thing.  Sudden, intense nipple pain in a mum who has been feeding for months without pain might make me suspect thrush.  Sore nipples, pain whilst feeding, will first make me suspect that the latch could be better, and I will want to check positioning and attachment to see if we can get a deeper latch.

Signs and symptoms on you:

  • Usually both breasts will be painful, particularly after feeding, with a deep shooting pain 
  •  persistently sore nipples where the latch is fine. You might suspect thrush when breastfeeding has been going well before a sudden bout of unexplained soreness. 
  • Red, shiny nipples
  • Flaky, itchy sore nipples
  • Blistery rash around nipples and areola. 
Signs on your baby:

  • White patches in the mouth that can't be wiped off, unlike milk
  • Nappy rash with a very red, raised area with a sharply defined border
  • Gassy, fussy, unhappy baby.  Thrush in the mouth will make feeding uncomfortable and unpleasant for your little one.

The most common cause of sore nipples is position and latch, so get along to a drop-in clinic, breastfeeding counsellor or IBCLC can observe a feed and check your latch.  Knowledgeable, experienced help is key here.

If you suspect that you may have thrush, you need to make an appointment to see your GP, and you should expect that they will treat both of you as a preventative measure, even if your baby has no signs of the infection.  Once you have a diagnosis and medication, make sure you take the medication regularly and finish the course, even if your symptoms have gone.


Practical measures to use alongside your meds are:
  1. Rinse and air dry nipples after feeding, you can rinse in vinegar and water, too. One tablespoon vinegar to a cup of water, applied with a fresh cotton bud for each breast.
  2. Exposure to artificial or natural light for a spell every day...thrush is a fungal infection which thrives in moist dark conditions.
  3. Hot/boil wash and air dry clothes
  4. Don't share towels and flannels with other family members
  5. Anything that comes into contact with your breast - breast shells, bra, breast pump parts - needs boiling once a day for 20 minutes.
  6. Anything in contact with your baby's mouth - pacifier, bottle nipple, teething ring - needs boiling once a day for 20 minutes
  7. Discard bottle nipples after a week
  8. Lower your consumption of yeast and sugar
  9. Increase your consumption of oat bran porridge to support gut bacteria, garlic, and acidophilus.
  10. Take more time with careful hand washing during this time.
The La Leche League website has some useful tips for managing this alongside medication your GP prescribes, as will your local breastfeeding drop in clinic, so seek out knowledgeable support in your area.  If you're in Britain, you can phone one of these helplines:


  • Association of Breastfeeding Mothers - 0300 330 5453
  • National Breastfeeding Helpline - 0300 100 0212
  • Natural Childbirth Trust - 0300 3300771
  • La Leche League - 0845 120 2918










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