I have been noticing that severalcases of thrush (Candida) are going undiagnosed. I truly believe that this isaffecting the success and duration of breastfeeding for many mothers. Because the symptoms can so easily go without being recognized, they are often misjudged as some other problem or mistaken as a normal part of a different issue. Even when it is noticed, some feel it is common and harmless so they just let it run it's course. Other people clean the infant’s mouth with a solution like hydrogen peroxide, baking soda or thieves’ oil so it looks better. Often times they have recently seen a doctor so they feel that the infant has already been checked for it. The problem is so many mothers and babies suffer through preventable symptoms and often time’s breastfeeding is stopped or its planned duration is greatly reduced.
Thrush is basically a yeast infection in the baby’s mouth. We all have yeast naturally on our bodies, but when there is an overgrowth it becomes and infection.
Why is it so easily mistaken or over looked? Let’s take a look at the basic symptoms:
For the Mom:
· White patches on mom’s nipple and areola area
· Nipple pain not improved with better latch and positioning
· Sharp shooting pains deep within the breast
For the Infant:
· White patches – may appear on the tongue, cheeks and lips
· Latch difficulty
· Short frequent feedings
· Diaper Rash
The white patches characteristics of Thrush often occur only inside the buccal pads (cheeks) of an infant’s mouth so they go unnoticed. These white patches are easily seen on the infant’s tongue but are often mistaken for leftover milk. A mother’s nipples and areola may take on a shiny appearance which can be overlooked, unless a mom knows to look for it. Especially if she is using a nipple cream, she may think the shine is from the cream or the Lanolin she is applying. Latching can become difficult, the infant’s mouth may be sore therefore he may nurse only when hungry and desire short frequent feedings. He may be fussy while trying to nurse or suck on a pacifier. This behavior is often mistaken as bottle nipple confusion, breast refusal or even a desire ofthe infant’s to no longer want to breastfeed. This is especially a hint if the infant has been nursing with no problems for several weeks or months and all of a sudden latch becomes difficult.
The mother may experience burning pain on the nipples during and after nursing. If a mother is not aware of thrush being present she may think it is a latch problem or that her infant is a really aggressive sucker and she has to decide to take the pain or give up nursing. Some mother’s will choose to stop latching and pump only for the duration of their breastfeeding experience to avoid the pain. This mother didn’t know that the situation was temporary and that even without treatment the pain would have most likely subsided as soon as the thrush improved. Even though pumping only and offering breastmilk in a bottle is still breastfeeding, pumping only does tend to decrease the milk supply and again reduce breastfeeding duration. Not to mention it’s a big commitment and a lot of work.
The sharp shooting pains in mom’s breast are often confused with a strong milk ejection reflex (letdown). In the later stage of thrush, an infant’s diaper area may get a raised patchy bright or dark red diaper rash with distinct borders. However, especially depending onthe age of infant, the origin of the rash may be assumed to be related to urine or feces left on the skin too long, an allergic reaction to the brand of diapers being used or maybe mistaken as an allergic reaction to a new food or askin care product. Thrush is contagious and often time’s thrush is shared back and forth between a mother and baby. That is why it is important to treat them both simultaneously.
It is important to not diagnose yourself or take remedies you get off the internet or from other people.Contact your physician for diagnosis and treatment. Replace or sterilize everything that touches your infant’s mouth, nipples, pacifiers, toys, breastpump parts, bras and nightgowns. Change nursing pads often. Wash hands frequently.
Be on the lookout for symptoms of thrush if;
· Mom has had a yeast infection during pregnancy or in the postpartum period
· If a mother is given antibiotics after surgery
· If the infant has been given antibiotics
· If you suddenly get an onset of nipple pain after several weeks or months of pain free breastfeeding
Sandra Davis-Hathaway, IBCLC
The Breastfeeding Specialist