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In my experience of logging 19 years of breastfeeding our eight children, including a baby with Down Syndrome and partially breastfeeding an adopted baby, breastfeeding is a pleasurable experience.
But, like all aspects of childcare, breastfeeding is not always problem-free.
The good news is that nearly all of the early breastfeeding problems can be corrected by getting the right help at the right time – before baby learns painful sucking habits.
That’s why we’ve taken great care to give you practical tips to help you and your baby enjoy one of life’s greatest experiences – breastfeeding.
Our five-month-old bites while breastfeeding and it hurts.
How can I stop her? Babies do bite the breast that feeds them.
As soon as those pearly whites begin to painfully bother her gums (can begin as early as three months), she naturally turns to her favorite pacifier – mom.
What’s even more startling is the irritating little nip that comes just as you are feeling the effects of your natural tranquilizing hormones, as if being jarred out of a light sleep.
Try these suggestions to lessen biting:
• React appropriate to how it feels.
“Ouch!” you holler as you pry those little baby jaws apart with your fingers to preserve your precious, tender piece of flesh.
Once you’ve rescued your nipple, watch baby’s face.
Sensitive babies will cry at mother’s reaction.
Calm her and immediately resume nursing.
When she bites again, react the same way.
Eventually, baby will associate biting with an undesirable reaction and will stop biting.
• End the feeding.
When baby bites and you prematurely end the feeding, baby associates biting with the end of a feeding, which acts as another deterent for her continued biting.
• Pull baby close.
Instead of the yank-and-yell response, which you may intuitively feel like doing, as soon as you sense baby’s teeth coming down to bite, draw her in close to your breast and she will automatically let go in order to open her mouth more and uncover her nose to breathe.
Don’t try to disengage your nipple from the clenched teeth.
Your baby will lessen her bite as she realized that she can’t both bite and breathe.
After several times of this counter-instinctive trick of pulling your baby in close to you when she bites, your baby will realize that biting triggers this uncomfortable response and she will stop biting.
Remember, your goal is to discourage her from biting, not to frighten her.
• Reserve a protective finger.
Once you know your baby is in the biting phase, keep a finger in the corner of her mouth, ready to break the suction if you sense her starting to clamp down.
• Try the pull-off-and-put-down technique.
If baby bites, immediately disengage her from the breast and put her down, not in a punitive way, but with enough firmness that she makes the connection between biting and being put down.
• Provide an alternative.
Teething creates the urge to chomp, and anything that enters her mouth is fair game.
Keep some teething toys in the freezer, such as a frozen banana or a washcloth, and let her chomp on these before, or at the end of a feeding.
If you know from experience that biting comes at the end of the feeding, let her finish her sucking on your finger or a cool substitute.
These techniques will teach your baby breastfeeding manners and also preserve your nipples.
How to stop your baby from biting during breastfeeding.
Most babies try biting during the teething stage when they are around 6 months old.
Teething hurts and chewing helps to relieve your baby’s pain, so basically your baby will chew on your shoe if you let him (we don’t recommend this).
Here’s the good news:
A baby who is latched on and nursing properly cannot bite your nipple.
If the nipple is far back in his mouth, and his lips and gums are about an inch behind the nipple on the areola, then his tongue will stop the bites because it should be between his lower teeth and your breast. Moral of the story:
If he is nursing properly, he can’t bite. Nursing can and should continue when your baby gets teeth.
Keep on giving that baby your liquid gold.
Tips to stop the baby bites, pronto:
Biting at the end of a nursing session:
Notice when he’s biting – usually it’s at the end of nursing and he’s playing around, though it doesn’t feel playful to you.
WATCH for signs of boredom, watch for tension in baby’s jaw before he starts to bite down, he may pull his tongue back from the proper nursing position over the lower gum/teeth, or, you may notice the intensity of his sucking slows.
If you notice any of these warning signs, remove that babe from your breast before the biting starts.
When baby is teething, test the shark-filled waters:Biting is often brought on by teething.
If baby seems to be teething, offer a teething toy or something cold to bite (instead of you). Offer your baby a teething toy and see if he starts gnawing at it or sucking it.
If he starts sucking it, he’s probably hungry so proceed with the feed.
Make sure your baby opens wide when latching on and use your pinky to help:
Praise your baby when he latches on correctly, without biting.
Don’t force the course:When your baby is distracted, don’t force a nursing.
If he’s pushing against you with his arms, he may not be hungry or interested in nursing.
Try lying down with him in a quiet room, walking or rocking.
A quiet dim lit room is a great way to minimize distractions.
Attention, attention, attention:
If your little angel is biting, focus your attention on your baby while nursing because some older babies will bite for attention.
Maintain eye contact, so you can catch the cues. In other words, be on guard, soldier.
Praise, praise, praise him! ALL babies (and humans) love praise.
Praise your babefor a good latch and withhold praise when baby is biting (obvs).
Praise makes babies oh so happy, so don’t hold back!
What to do if baby bites:
There are a few things you can do immediately to stop your baby from biting.
The most effective thing you can do is to calmly remove your baby from your breast (with your pinky) and either say nothing, or say something like “no biting.”
Stop nursing immediately and remove the little biter for a few seconds or a few minutes (you need to be the judge of how long is best – use your instincts by your baby’s reaction).
If he really wants to keep nursing, he’ll be upset and you can give him another chance. If he wasn’t really that interested in nursing, he may just start playing with toys.
What NOT to do if baby bites:
NEVER scream or yell.
This is the most important thing to do and is of course hard when you are in pain – so come on, mama, you’re the adult here.
Control those emotions, breath deeply and whatever you do, do not scream or yell at your baby.
Many babies are so scared of yelling that they go on a nursing strike.
Screaming or yelling will not stop baby biting – it will only cause problems. Often his feelings will be hurt and he will begin to cry.
This is negative reinforcement and is not effective.
Some babies will be so upset by your reaction that they will refuse to nurse altogether.
Babies are sensitive.
Mama, you’ve got this. You are a superhero, so keep on doing what you do.
What to do when your breastfeeding baby bites
Should I stop breastfeeding now that my baby has teeth?
There’s no need to stop breastfeeding once your baby has teeth, although you may be tempted once you feel those sharp little teeth on your nipple!
The first thing to do is check your baby’s latch. If he’s well attached, he shouldn’t be able to bite.
First teeth usually come through on babies’ lower gums.
To bite you, your baby would need to pull his tongue back to expose his bottom teeth, which he can’t do while he’s latched on.
To get the best possible latch, get into a comfortable position, and make sure the weight of your baby’s body is well supported.
As your baby gets bigger, you may need to try different positions to keep you both comfortable during breastfeeding.
Your baby’s mouth needs to be open wide (gaping) and ready to take in your breast. His head should be tipped back, with his chin leading.
If his head is tipped forward, his top gumline, or teeth if he has them, may press down on your breast.
If your baby loosens his latch towards the end of his feed, your nipple may be caught for a moment between his gums or teeth.
When you notice your baby’s jaw tightening or his tongue pulling back, put your little finger into the corner of his mouth, between his gums.
He should then bite your finger, rather than your breast.
Don’t pull him off while he’s biting, as it will make you sore.
Why does my baby bite when he’s breastfeeding?
Apart from being poorly attached, there are other reasons why babies bite:
Older babies can be distracted easily.
If they turn to look at something, they can forget they still have mum’s breast in their mouth, and then close their jaws.
Some babies bite at the end of a feed.
Your baby may bite if he falls asleep during a feed. Keep an eye out for when his jaw movements slow down and weaken, and then ease him from your breast before he dozes off.
Your baby may have a cold, or an ear infection, that’s making it hard for him to swallow. Try holding him more upright while he’s feeding, to make it easier for him, and less painful for you.
Your baby may be teething, and bites to seek relief from the irritation and pain he’s feeling.
Babies are curious, and some bite just to see what happens.
How can I stop my baby biting?
You can try various tactics to stop your baby biting.
The approach you take will depend on your baby’s age and how much he can understand.
Your baby’s new teeth are sharp. If they graze or fasten on to your breast, chances are you’ll let out a yell! Your strong reaction might shock your baby so much that he won’t do it again.
He may even be so startled that he refuses your breast.
The more usual reaction to your scream, however, is that your baby is curious and repeats the bite to see if it works again.
He isn’t old enough yet to understand that he’s hurting you. For him, it’s a bit like experimenting with a push-button toy or rattle.
If he bites suddenly, try to stay calm and quiet, but stop feeding him. Your baby needs to associate biting with losing your breast.
Make eye contact and use a calm and firm tone to let him know that biting hurts and you don’t want him to do it.
He may not understand your words, but he’ll get your meaning.
You may be tempted to wean your baby if he’s biting, but there are lots of things you can try first. Here are tips on how to discourage biting:
If your baby keeps biting, put him on the floor for a short time straight after he bites
For an older toddler who’s a regular biter, be positive when he doesn’t bite
Give him hugs, kisses and praise.
If you think your child is after attention, give him lots of eye contact, and talk to him while he’s feeding.
Try feeding your baby in a different position.
If possible, feed your baby in a quiet place with low light, so there’s nothing to distract him.
Learn to recognise when he’s finished feeding.
Take him off your breast if he’s falling asleep
If he’s teething, massage his gums with a clean finger, or give him a teething toy before or after feeds.
Read other ways to soothe your teething baby.
The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for a child’s first two years.
If you decide to continue feeding your baby into toddlerhood, you and your child will soon get used to bite-free feeding.
How to Stop Your Child From Biting
Why Children Bite
Kids bite for a number of reasons — and most of them aren’t intentionally malicious.
They’re in pain.
When babies bite, typically it’s because they’re teething.
They’re just doing it to relieve the pain of their swollen, tender gums.
They’re exploring their world. Very young children use their mouths to explore, just as they use their hands.
Just about everything infants or toddlers pick up eventually winds up in their mouths.
Kids this age aren’t yet able to prevent themselves from biting the object of their interest.
They’re looking for a reaction. Part of exploration is curiosity.
Toddlers experiment to see what kind of reaction their actions will provoke.
They’ll bite down on a friend or sibling to hear the surprised exclamation, not realizing how painful the experience is for that person.
They’re craving attention.
In older kids, biting is just one of several bad behaviors used to get attention.
When a child feels ignored, discipline is at least one way of getting noticed — even if the attention is negative rather than positive.
Biting, like hitting, is a way for some children to assert themselves when they’re still too young to express feelings effectively through words.
To your child, biting is a way to get back a favorite toy, tell you that he or she is unhappy, or let another child know that he or she wants to be left alone
How to Stop Biting
Practice prevention so that your child will be less likely to bite in the first place.
If your baby is teething, make sure to always have a cool teething ring or washcloth on hand so he or she will be less likely to sink teeth into someone’s arm.
Avoid situations in which your child can get irritable enough to bite.
Make sure that all of your child’s needs — including eating and nap time — are taken care of before you go out to play.
Bring along a snack to soothe your child if he or she gets cranky from being hungry.
As soon as your child is old enough, encourage the use of words (“I’m angry with you” or “That’s my toy”) instead of biting.
Other ways to express frustration or anger include hugging a stuffed animal or punching a pillow.
Sometimes, shortening activities or giving your child a break can help prevent the rising frustration that can lead to biting and other bad behaviors.
Give your child enough of your time throughout the day (for example, by reading or playing together), so he or she doesn’t bite just to get attention.
Extra attention is especially important when your child is going through a major life change, such as a move or welcoming a baby sibling.
If your child is prone to biting, keep an eye on any playmates and step in when an altercation appears to be brewing.
Even with your best prevention efforts, biting incidents might still occur.
When your child bites, firmly let your child know that this behavior is not acceptable by saying, “No. We don’t bite!”
Explain that biting hurts the other person.
Then remove your child from the situation and give the child time to calm down.
You might have heard from other parents that if your child bites you, bite your child back. This isn’t good advice.
Children learn by imitation.
If you bite your child, the child is going to get the impression that this behavior is acceptable and he or she will be more likely to do it again.
The same goes for hitting a child for biting.
If you are unable to get your child to stop biting, the behavior could begin to have an impact on school and relationships.
You or another adult might have to closely supervise interactions between your child and other kids.
When biting becomes a habit or continues past age 4 or 5, it might stem from a more serious emotional problem.
Talk to your child’s health care provider, or enlist the help of a child psychologist or therapist.
Biting Injury Rx
The first thing to do for any biting injury is to wash the area with soap and water.
Even little teeth can break the skin.
If the bite is bleeding and the wound appears to be deep, call your child’s doctor.
The bite may need medical treatment, which could include antibiotics or a tetanus shot, or both.
Candida (yeast) Infection on Nipples
Candida (also called yeast, monilla or thrush) is a fungus that thrives in warm, dark, moist environments, such as the mucus membranes of the mouth and vagina, the diaper area, skin folds, bra pads, and on persistently wet nipples.
Suspect candida as the cause of your sore nipples if:
• Your nipples are extremely sore, burning, itching, red, or blistery.
• You experience shooting pains in your breasts during or just after feeding (especially during your milk ejection reflex).
• The usual remedies for sore nipples aren’t working.
• Baby has oral thrush (white, cottage-cheese-like patches on the tongue and sides of the mouth) and/or a yeasty diaper rash.
• Your nipples suddenly become sore after a period of pain-free breastfeeding.
• You are taking, or have just finished taking, a course of antibiotics.
Yeast infections are common following antibiotic treatment.
Here are some simple suggestions that may help prevent a yeast infection on your nipples, or cure a mild case of yeast infection:
• Yeast organisms hate sunlight, so give your bra and breasts a sun bath. Expose your nipples to sunlight for several minutes several times a day.
After washing them, dry your bras in the sunlight.
• Air-dry your nipples after each feeding
• Avoid plastic-lined breast pads that irritate skin and trap leaked milk.
• Change nursing pads after each feeding.
• Wear 100 percent cotton bras and wash them daily in very hot water.
• Thoroughly wash pump parts that come in contact with your breasts in a bleach solution and boil them in water for five minutes daily.
TREATING CANDIDA: INFECTION OF THE NIPPLE
If the simple home remedies listed above don’t bring relief, consult your healthcare provider about the following treatments:
• Apply an antifungal cream (mycostatin, clotrimazole, myconazole) to your nipples as suggested or prescribed by your doctor.
• If you have a candida infection in your nipples, baby should be treated for thrush even if you can’t see any white patches in the mouth.
Your healthcare provider will prescribe an oral antifungal suspension that should be painted on baby’s tongue, roof, and sides of the mouth three or four times a day for a couple of weeks.
• If baby has a candida diaper rash, treat it with an over-the-counter antifungal cream.
• Eat lots of yogurt (the kind with live active cultures) and take oral acidophilus.
This encourages good bacteria to live in your gut and discourages the growth of yeast.
• If the candida is resistant to the standard treatments described above, in consultation with your healthcare provider, try a 0.25 – 0.5 percent solution of gentian violet applied to your nipples twice a day for three days.
Gentian violet is effective, but messy.
Also, apply a small amount once a day to baby’s mouth, but be aware that overuse of gentian violet may irritate the sensitive oral mucus membranes of baby’s mouth.
Apply Vaseline to baby’s lips before using the gentian violet to avoid purple stains.
• Warning – gentian violet has been used for many years to treat thrush.
A recent study done in Australia has linked gentian violet to cancer of the mouth.
However, many other professionals around the world believe that it is safe, and continue to recommend it.
For this reason, we suggest you use this remedy sparingly, and for as little time as possible.
• If your baby has thrush but your nipples are not yet sore, apply the prescribed medicine to baby’s mouth just before feeding so that your nipples get the preventive benefit of the medication as well.
• If your healthcare provider advises you to wash the creams off your nipples prior to breastfeeding, do so gently with warm water.
• While nursing on a candida-infected nipple can be exquisitely painful, it is necessary to keep the affected breast empty to prevent mastitis, or even a candida infection deeper into the breast tissue.
Pay particular attention to proper latch-on and easing your baby off your nipples at the end of the feeding, since infected nipples are more sensitive and prone to injury from improper sucking patterns.
Yeast infections can be very persistent.
Use the full course of medication suggested by your doctor, and continue using the home remedies for several weeks so that the infection will not reoccur.
Thrush and Breastfeeding Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment
Thrush is a common breastfeeding problem. While you can take care of some breastfeeding issues on your own, this isn’t one of them.
Thrush is an infection, and it needs treatment.
If you notice any of the signs or symptoms of thrush listed below, and you think that you or your baby have thrush, call your doctor and your baby’s doctor right away.
With treatment, you and your baby will be feeling better and back to your normal breastfeeding routine in no time.
But, if you let it go, thrush can lead to very painful, cracked, and damaged nipples, a nursing strike, or early weaning. It can also spread to other members of your family.
Thrush is a yeast (fungal) infection that grows and spreads in warm, moist, dark environments.
It’s caused by the overgrowth of a type of fungus called Candida albicans (also referred to as Monilia, candidiasis, or candidosis).
Candida is normally found on and in your body.
It usually doesn’t cause any harm because there are also good bacteria on and in your body that keeps the yeast in check.
However, when there’s a change in the healthy balance of bacteria and yeast, Candida can grow and cause problems.
The natural balance of bacteria and yeast in your body can be affected by the use of antibiotics.
If you or your baby have to take an antibiotic to fight off an infection, it can also kill off some of the body’s good bacteria. When there are less healthy bacteria, it leaves an opening for the yeast to grow.
You are also more likely to develop thrush on your breasts and nipples if you tend to get vaginal yeast infections.
You may be prone to yeast infections if you have diabetes or you use birth control pills.
Additionally, if your breasts leak breast milk and you use breast pads, the warm, wet pads against your skin can provide another opportunity for the yeast to grow.
Signs and Symptoms
Thrush can show up on your breasts or in your baby’s mouth. If all of a sudden breastfeeding becomes very painful for you, or your baby becomes fussy and refuses to breastfeed, check for these signs and symptoms of thrush:
Breast and Nipple Pain: Thrush can cause severe nipple pain. If you feel burning, itching, pins-and-needles, or a sharp, stabbing breast pain, or a pain deep in your breast, you might have thrush.
Inflammation (Swelling): If your nipples and areola are swollen and very red, it could indicate a yeast infection.
Irritation of the Nipples
Thrush may make your nipples look shiny or flaky, or you may see small blisters or white patches on the skin around your nipples.
Diaper Rash: A yeast infection on your baby’s bottom looks like a red, bumpy rash. A fungal diaper rash is one of the symptoms of thrush.
Irritation in Your Baby’s Mouth: If your baby has thrush in his mouth, you may not see anything
But, sometimes thrush appears as white patches in your baby’s mouth or a white coating on your baby’s tongue.
Breastfeed If You Have Thrush
If you think you have thrush, or you’ve just been diagnosed, you might be nervous about breastfeeding.
It’s normal to be worried and a little scared about spreading an infection to your baby.
But by the time you realize you have it, your child’s already been exposed and probably has it, too.
Or, it may be that your baby had it first and gave it to you. What does this mean for breastfeeding?
You can continue to breastfeed if you have thrush.
It’s safe. However, there may be a few issues that you’ll have to face.
Thrush in your baby’s mouth may make it painful for her.
Your baby may be fussy and refuse to breastfeed.
For you, your nipples and your breasts may hurt very badly. If you can take the pain, you should continue to breastfeed.
If you need to give your breasts a break while you’re undergoing treatment, you can pump to keep up your breast milk supply until you feel well enough to breastfeed again.
Your Expressed Breast Milk
Even though it’s OK to breastfeed your baby when you have thrush, you should not collect your breast milk to store.
Candida can live in your breast milk, and even if you freeze the milk, it won’t kill it.
Wait until you finish taking the entire course of medication and you no longer have any symptoms of thrush before you begin collecting and freezing your breast milk for storage again.
Candida grows and spreads quickly so it can be hard to get rid of it.
Yeast can easily spread to other family members, too.
If you think you and your baby have thrush, you need to get treated together.
Call your doctor and your baby’s doctor so that you can get diagnosed and treated quickly and follow this advice:
Use Medications: Both you and your baby should be treated with medication if either one of you shows symptoms of thrush.
For a list of medications see below.
Wash Your Hands: Good handwashing technique prevents the spread of many infections including thrush.
Wash your hands before and after you touch your breasts, after you use the bathroom, and after you change your baby’s diaper.
Wash Your Breasts: Keep your breasts and nipples clean and dry.
After you breastfeed, rinse your nipples with water or a solution of vinegar (one part), and water (four parts) then let them air dry.
If you can expose your bare nipples to the sun for a few minutes every day, that would also be helpful.
Wash Your Baby’s Items: To kill the yeast, clean all the things that come in contact with breasts and your baby’s mouth.
Boil or use hot, soapy water to thoroughly wash pacifiers, bottles, bottle nipples, teethers, toys, and the washable parts of your breast pump each day.
Change Your Breast Pads Often: If you leave wet breast pads on your breasts, they keep your breasts warm and moist.
It’s the perfect breeding ground for yeast, so change breast pads whenever they get wet.
Keep Your Nursing Bra Clean and Dry: Wear a clean nursing bra every day and change it if it gets wet.
Wash your bra, nursing clothes, pajamas, and bed sheets in hot water or bleach to kill the yeast.
Try Probiotics: Probiotics are good bacteria.
You can try a probiotic supplement such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, or you can eat yogurt with active cultures.
Limit Sugar in Your Diet: Yeast loves sugar.
If you avoid sugary foods and drinks while you’re being treated for thrush, it may help you get rid of infection more quickly.
Protect Your Breasts: The nipple pain can be so bad that it hurts when your bra or clothes rub against your breasts. Breast shells can protect your nipples and relieve that pain while you heal.
Antifungal medications are used to treat yeast or fungal infections.
Both you and your child will need to take medication, but the medicine that you’ll give your child will be different than yours.
If necessary, your partner and your other children may also need a prescription.
It’s very important to use the medication the way your doctors prescribe it and to take it for as long as you’re supposed to.
If you feel better before the course of medication is complete and stop using it, the yeast infection can come back.
Nystatin Cream: Nystatin cream is an antifungal medication that you apply directly to the affected area on the skin of your breasts and nipples.
Diflucan: Diflucan (fluconazole) is a pill that you take by mouth.
Your doctor may prescribe Diflucan if you’ve already tried nystatin and other antifungal creams that didn’t work, if the yeast infection is inside of your breasts where an antifungal cream cannot reach, or you continue to get recurrent fungal infections.
Treatment with Diflucan can last two weeks or more, and it is safe to breastfeed while you’re taking this medication.
Monistat or Gyne-Lotrimin: If you have a vaginal yeast infection along with other signs and symptoms of thrush, you need to treat that infection while you’re treating your breasts and your baby.
Your doctor can prescribe an antifungal vaginal cream or suppository, or you can use one of the over-the-counter products found at your local pharmacy.
Nystatin Oral Suspension: Your baby’s doctor will probably give you a prescription for a liquid form of nystatin to use inside of your baby’s mouth.
Antifungal Diaper Rash Creams or Ointments: You can use an antifungal cream or ointment such as Mycostatin (nystatin) or Lotrimin (clotrimazole) to treat a fungal diaper rash on your baby’s bottom.
Gentian Violet: Gentian violet is a liquid that you swab on your nipples and in your baby’s mouth. It’s a natural, over-the-counter treatment for thrush that you can find in natural food stores.
APNO: Dr. Jack Newman’s All-Purpose Nipple Ointment (APNO) contains three types of medication: an antifungal, an antibiotic, and a corticosteroid.
You can rub it onto your nipples to treat nipple pain, swelling, and infections from yeast or bacteria.
How to Get Rid of Yeast
Thrush is difficult to conquer.
It can take a few weeks for the medications to work and completely get rid of the yeast.
Plus, yeast may be lurking in areas of your body other than your breasts and your baby’s mouth.
When these areas are left untreated, the yeast can show up again even after you think you’ve successfully treated the infection.
Yeast can also live on pacifiers and toys so it can quickly spread to your other children.
When you’re dealing with thrush, it may take a little work to wipe it out.
Follow the medication instructions that your doctor and your child’s doctor gives you, try to keep up with cleaning all the things that your breasts and your baby’s mouth touch, and most of all, be patient.
If thrush doesn’t seem to be getting better or it keeps coming back, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant.
Other skin conditions of the breast such as psoriasis or eczema can look like thrush.
Your health care provider will examine you, investigate your situation further, and reevaluate your treatment plan.
Nipple Thrush and Breastfeeding
Nipple thrush and oral thrush go hand-in-hand when it comes to breastfeeding.
The most common causes of these infections are types of Candida yeast that live naturally in and on our bodies.
While yeast infections can happen anywhere, the most common areas of the body involved are the mouth, groin, and areas where skin is covered and constantly rubbing against itself.
If you’re experiencing nipple thrush, breastfeeding a baby who has oral thrush, and looking to prevent or break the cycle of thrush infection and soothe symptoms, keep reading.
What are the symptoms specific to nipple thrush?
Symptoms of nipple thrush include:
- itchy, flaky, or shiny skin on the areola or nipples
- red or cracked nipples
- stabbing feeling deep within your breasts during or between feedings
- Symptoms of oral thrush for a baby include:
- raised white lesions on the tongue or inside of cheeks
- redness or irritation around lips
- bleeding or cracking on lips
- It’s also possible the baby won’t have any symptoms.
Managing and treating nipple thrush
If you are breastfeeding and you or your baby develop thrush, you will both need treatment.
You can keep breastfeeding while you treat nipple thrush, according to the La Leche League, International.
Yeast cells, the basis of nipple thrush and other yeast infections, can be passed to others by skin-to-skin contact.
In most cases, this doesn’t cause an infection to happen, but this ease of transfer is what makes it so important to treat thrush.
Watch for symptoms of yeast infections in other members of your household.
Conventional treatment for thrush in breastfeeding moms and babies includes a topical antifungal cream for your nipples and an oral rinse for your child.
Continue treatment as directed by your doctor.
When you’re breastfeeding, you should clear all over-the-counter (OTC) treatments for you and for your baby with your child’s pediatrician.
Common antifungals used to treat nipple and oral thrush include:
Topical antifungals for you:
- Oral antifungal for you:
- Antifungal treatment for baby:
- nystatin oral suspension
- gentian violet (but can cause irritation and ulceration)
- oral fluconazole
Coupling topical and oral medications with practical changes to your day-to-day life may be a better treatment than medication alone.
At-home steps for treating a yeast infection include:
Wash clothing and linens in high heat.
Laundering all shared surfaces that could harbor yeast, such as diaper changing areas, bedding, and bibs.
Make sure to wash these things separately from other clothing. Consider adding bleach or distilled white vinegar to the wash.
Regularly clean items. Thoroughly cleaning all pacifiers, sippy cups, breast pump parts, nipple shields, teethers, and toys, using hot, soapy water.
Anything that comes into contact with the baby’s mouth or your breasts while you have thrush should be cleaned directly after use.
Everyone should wash their hands.
Everyone in the household and who cares for the baby should be extra careful to wash their hands regularly.
Be extra mindful to carefully wash hands after changing the baby’s diaper.
Wash your hands before and after nursing and applying any ointments to your breasts.
Other things you can try to manage or reduce nipple thrush include:
Cut back on sugar. Consider reducing the amount of sugar in your diet, as yeast feeds on sugar.
Add a probiotic to your diet to restore balance to the flora and bacteria in your system. Read more about probiotics and yeast infections.
Use a diluted vinegar solution topically on your nipples in between feedings, as long as your nipples aren’t cracked or bleeding.
La Leche League International recommends a ratio of 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup of water. They recommend apple cider vinegar for your yeast infection.
ACV is known as an antifungal.
In a 2018 study, ACV was shown to have antifungal abilities in a petri dish.
Though these findings haven’t yet been reproduced in humans, ACV will likely not cause you any harm to try.
However, do not use ACV to replace the prescription your physician has given you.
If thrush persists beyond a month after treatment begins, speak to your doctor.
It may be that a partner or another family member is reinfecting you or your baby with thrush and making it hard to get rid of.
It may also be another factor that you haven’t considered.
When you’re breastfeeding, nipple thrush shouldn’t be left untreated. Oral thrush can move into your baby’s esophagus and cause other complications.
Nipple thrush causes
Taking antibiotics or having a lowered immune system can cause an environment in the body that makes it easier for yeast to grow and cause an infection.
Other times, there is no initial cause or the cause is unclear.
Since yeast grows in moist, warm environments, mouths and nipples are prime places for yeast to overgrow during breastfeeding.
Since yeast cells can be transferred by skin-to-skin contact, if your baby has oral thrush or another type of yeast infection, your baby can transmit thrush to your nipple while breastfeeding.
In some instances, this becomes a cycle of infection where you transmit the yeast infection back and forth to each other.
Other influences on nipple thrush infections
Pregnancy and nursing can cause your skin to rub against itself in ways you aren’t used to.
Some people also sweat more during pregnancy.
Wearing bras and tops that aren’t designed for nursing or pregnancy can also contribute by trapping sweat and moisture in the folds of your skin.
Heat and humidity where you live can also make thrush infections more common.
Try to keep your breasts dry. Strategies to keep your nipples and breasts dry include:
Wash and towel dry. Rinsing your skin and drying the area around and under your breasts after sweating or after breastfeeding the baby may help reduce nipple thrush symptoms or prevent its return.
Air dry. After patting your chest with a clean towel, air dry your breasts. Some people use a hair dryer on a very low setting.