Myth Busters: "I have THRUSH!"

Welcome to The Local Latch's blog! We'll be primarily using this space to keep you updated on what's happening with The Local Latch, and to give you helpful bits of info for you to use in your breastfeeding relationships with your babies!

Every week at our Breastfeeding Groups we will be discussing common myths that surround breastfeeding. And every week we'll do our very best to debunk every single one! Last week we discussed Thrush.

WHAT is Thrush?

Thrush is a yeast infection caused most commonly by the fungus Candida albicans. Thrush presents as causing surface pain on a mother's breast or causing itchy, flaky, shiny nipples and/or breast skin. Often times, Thrush will present in baby's mouth as white spots or a thin white layer inside the mouth that cannot be wiped out.

So why are we talking about this? We decided to discuss Thrush specifically because it is actually relatively rare in breastfeeding. All too often mamas will be led to think that whatever discomfort they are experiencing is caused by Thrush when in fact it is much more likely that the cause is something completely different. We want to make sure we empower mamas with the information they need to help them be able to differentiate between Thrush and other much more common maladies.

THIS is Thrush!

Since we like to keep things "Local" around here, we'll tell you about a scenario with a local mama who had a true case of thrush. Here's what that looked like:  Mom presented with slightly irritated, red, splotchy, itchy areas around her areoles and nipples when baby was a few weeks old. Baby's mouth looked ok, so it wasn't a glaringly obvious sign of a yeast infection. At first presentation, we (the CLC's from The Local Latch) recommended working on baby's latch to ensure it to be as comfortable as possible so as not to irritate the breast or cause any further damage. We also eliminated lanolin use with the mama to ensure slight wool allergies weren't to blame, as well as encouraged the mama to stop using her pump or any other plastic parts for a while to see if that helped. After we were sure latch looked good and we had made other changes, the pain for the mama continued. We referred her to her physician who started her on a prescription treatment specifically for Thrush. After about 3 days, she saw significant improvement. However, when she stopped using the medication before the full course was finished, the symptoms returned. She then decided to give Gentian Violet a try and within 3 days, like with the prescription medication, she noticed improvement. Since she had seen improvement with two consecutive Thrush-specific treatments, we could be fairly certain it was indeed Thrush. This mama went the extra mile in working to prevent the recurrence of Thrush by cutting all sugar from her diet (sugar feeds yeast!), scaling back on pumping and the use of other plastic parts like bottles, and making sure when she did use them they were extremely well cleaned, and continuing to work on maintaining proper latch with the baby so as not to introduce any more damage. This mama was proactive in trying to make sure she was doing everything she could to get rid of this pesky Thrush, and committed to seeing her treatments through. Great work, mama!

This is NOT Thrush!

Like we mentioned above, often times mamas can mistake more common breastfeeding issues for Thrush. So let's talk about what we should consider BEFORE we jump to the Thrush conclusion:

1- Thrush doesn't present as deep breast pain. If this is what you are experiencing, it is much more likely you may have a case of mastitis or a bacterial infection. Or maybe baby slept for longer than ever before and you woke up feeling engorged! Not comfortable for sure, but definitely not Thrush.

2- Your nipples may look red and irritated and feel sore and painful. However, more often than not, these are signs of an improper latch. Is baby too shallow? Are baby's lips tucked under instead of flanged out? Is baby sucking in air instead of creating a closed seal? Is baby gumming your nipple? There are COUNTLESS ways that poor latch can lead to all sorts of problems for mama's nipples. This is much more common than Thrush.

3-"My baby's tongue is white! AHHH! THRUSH!" Wait, mama! That's probably just milk. So often it happens that babies will get a little white film on their tongues from breastfeeding. Try gently scraping baby's tongue and if some of it comes off, that means it's just milk. If it were the yeast from Thrush, it wouldn't come off.


So, before you jump to the Thrush conclusion, there are LOTS of other explanations for the pain and discomfort you may be feeling. Learning to breastfeed can be really hard for some mamas and babies! And that's why we're here to help! And if after we try to correct everything we can with your latch and any other issues that may be causing discomfort, and the pain is not resolved, we can start seeing if Thrush may be the actual culprit.

Our favorite resource that offers a protocol for treatment of Thrush is from the International Breastfeeding Centre here:  IBC Online Candida Protocol

Another great article about differentiating between Thrush and something different is found here:  It's Thrush. Or is it?

Ok BFing mamas! Anyone have experience with Thrush? Or something that resembled Thrush and was actually something different? Let us know in the comments below!

--Megan Lombardo, CLC