How Thrush Affects Breastfeeding

Thrush is the term used to describe the whitish curd like plaques that develop because of Candida albicans build-up in moist, dark and nutrient rich environments. The fungus is part of the normal flora in the human body and in usual circumstances, it does not cause harm or symptoms among humans. However, when the fungus starts to overwhelm the bacteria within the normal flora, it can give rise to symptoms. It is in such instances that the clinicians will be able to recognize thrush and this article will describe how thrush build-up in both the mother as well as on the baby can affect the process of breastfeeding.

Occurrence of thrush

As described earlier, Candida prefers to grow in places where there is enough moisture, darkness and nutrients. The inside of the baby’s mouth is a perfect place for the Candida albicans to thrive and therefore is the main location where thrush can be detected. In general, thrush will appear as thick white curd like plaques over the tongue, sides of the cheek, roof of the mouth, gums…etc. One can feel over these plaques with a clean finger and recognize that the bases of the plaques are raw and red. At times, the base of the plaque may start to bleed on touching its surface. However, the baby’s mouth is not the only place where Candida albicans can grow. The nipple area of the mother is also frequently inhabited by these funguses and therefore can infect one another when the mother feeds the baby. Thus, both the mother and the baby are at risk of being infected from one another even if one of the two is free from infection following treatment.

Thrush and breastfeeding

When thrush appears on the baby’s mouth or else on the mothers’ nipple, it can adversely affect the baby’s feeding. In one way, the baby can become agitated and restless which can lead to poor hold and inefficient sucking. In most instances, the reason for the agitation and the restlessness is the pain felt by the baby as the milk touches the raw surface of the thrush. In addition, the baby may also feel slightly feverish and may suffer from itching as a result of the Candida spreading through the digestive system to the anal region causing a nappy rash. The mother may also be reluctant to feed the baby when she acquires Candida infection on her nipples, as sucking can induce great pain in the region. The pain can become extreme if the infection has spread into the ductules. However, in most instances, thrush may not be detectable to the naked eye when it affects the nipples. All in all, cracked or sore nipples would suggest the presence of Candida infection and in some instances, the mother may feel a burning sensation over her nipples or Itching around the nipples with or without any other sign. If infected by Candida albicans, the nipples may appear pink or red and at times with whitish areas in between.

Managing thrush and continuing breastfeeding

Therefore, the pain and the discomfort felt by both the baby as well as the mother can lead to a breakup in the feeding pattern. However, breastfeeding is not contraindicated when either the mother or the baby is suffering from thrush. Instead, treatment should be initiated as early as possible and should be continued for an adequate amount of time rather than stopping within few days after the symptoms subside.

Meanwhile, it should be remembered that both the mother and the baby should be treated at the same time in order to prevent a recurrence. At the same time, the baby should be encouraged to feed at all times and if the feeding is not adequate or putting the baby to the nipple is extremely painful, expressed breast milk should be given. Mothers may also use pain relievers in order to circumvent the pain that she may suffer during breastfeeding.