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By Cathy Johnson, Lethbridge, Alberta

When my daughter was born I didn’t know what thrush was, and had no idea I could harbour yeast in my breasts and pass it on to my baby by breastfeeding. We seem to be a family that is particularly susceptible to thrush; how I wish I had known then what I know now!

Telltale symptoms are whit patches in baby’s mouth, which do not wipe off with a clean finger or damp cloth. Baby’s mouth may look irritated, and may even bleed where attempts to remove the white crust have been made. Thrush is a yeast infection occurring in the breasts and vaginal area of the mother, and in baby’s mouth, digestive tract and diaper area. As thrush can easily spread throughout baby’s system, there may be angry looking red spots in the rectal area, redness and discomfort over the entire diaper area. Some babies show no distress when thrushy, others become irritable and fuss at the start of a nursing. Mother may feel nothing, or notice a sharp, deep pain at the beginning of breastfeeding; sometimes it persists throughout the entire feeding.

Here’s how to avoid thrush:

Use cotton nursing pads, or better yet, do without pads altogether (you can stop leaking breasts by applying pressure to your nipples as soon as you feel a letdown occurring). I used disposable pads that were synthetic and did not breathe well. The warmth and moisture around my breasts was an instant breeding ground for yeast. Cotton pads or cotton handkerchiefs tucked into a bra are a better choice.

Try to do without a bra altogether and only wear cotton undergarments. The best way for your skin to breathe (and heal) is to be naked, and sunbathed.

Change your bedding and towels frequently; yeast loves damp mustiness.

Avoid sugary junk food and white sugar. Being a confessed junk food addict, this was the toughest change for me to face, but yeast thrives on sugar.


Be vigilant about your baby’s mouth. Pacifiers from other babies can be a yeast source.

The same goes for gummed toys, and wash cloths.

Here’s how to get rid of thrush:

If you get help from a doctor, make sure they treat you as well as baby otherwise the treatment will be a waste of time. And if baby has thrush in the mouth, make sure the diaper area is examined too.

If you are using an eye-dropper, make sure it isn’t contaminated. If applying cream, wash your hands thoroughly before and after.

Eat unflavoured, unsweetened yoghurt made with active bacterial culture which “eat” yeast. You can get acidophilus tablets at a health food store to do the same thing. Remember to keep them refrigerated.

Don’t despair. Ridding yourself of too much yeast is time consuming but the rewards are worth it. As I gaze into my three-year-old nurslings eyes, and realize how much our breastfeeding means to her, I’m glad I made the effort. Our second is due in four weeks, so soon I’ll have two little ones to keep “thrush-free.”

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