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How to Prevent Thrush When Breastfeeding

By Sandra Ketcham ; Updated June 13, 2017

Thrush is a type of infection caused by the yeast candida. It normally occurs in the mouths of babies but also can spread to their diaper area as well as the nipples of breastfeeding moms. Symptoms of thrush in a baby include creamy white patches on the tongue, gums, throat or sides of the mouth and dark red, painful areas. On a mother's nipples, thrush can cause cracks, redness, soreness and itching. Thrush is a contagious infection that is easy to prevent with careful attention to hygiene.

  1. Sterilize any instruments that come into contact with your nipples or your baby's mouth, especially if one of you already shows symptoms of thrush. Boil nipples, pacifiers and teething rings for five minutes after each use.

  2. Wash breast pump parts that touch your nipples in a bleach solution. Boil detachable parts when possible.

  3. Take acidophilus capsules or eat yogurt that contains live cultures of lactobacillus acidophilus. This is especially important if you are currently taking antibiotics, as antibiotics can reduce the number of bacteria that help keep candida yeast in check.

  4. Rinse your nipples with clean water after breastfeeding and then let them air dry. Exposing your nipples to a few minutes of sun each day also may be beneficial.

  5. Wash your nursing bras and other clothing in hot water to kill the yeast responsible for thrush infections and change your nursing pads frequently throughout the day.

  6. Stop smoking. Not only will quitting smoking greatly benefit your health and the health of your baby, it also will reduce your risk of developing thrush when breastfeeding, according to the University of Iowa.

  7. Limit the amount of high-yeast and high-sugar foods in your diet. Consuming a lot of bread, wine or other foods high in sugar and yeast increases your risk of thrush and makes it more difficult to get rid of existing infections.

  8. Wash your hands before and after changing diapers and breastfeeding to prevent transferring the responsible yeast from person to person or from one area of the body to another.

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