Of all the places that Candida albicans could choose to grow, does it have to choose your baby’s mouth? Seriously? Thrush in babies? Why is this a thing? Thrush Baby. Like the title of some B-grade Hollywood horror.
Baby thrush can make your baby irritable and make feeding hard—but the good news is, it’s not serious, very common, and totally treatable.
What is baby thrush?
Thrush is a yeast infection. The culprit yeast? Candida albicans.
Thrush can affect anyone but has a particular taste for the very young and the very old. Why does it prey on the most vulnerable? Because they’re the most vulnerable.
When your baby is younger than six months old, their immune system is still a novice at protecting their little body. This makes infection more likely.
Knowing the symptoms and causes of thrush in babies can help you treat it quickly and hopefully do what you can to prevent it from happening in the future. (It may still happen but we do our best.)
What causes thrush in babies?
Like it or not, we all have yeast swimming around us all the time. It has a particular penchant for moist areas, so mouths and intestines are some of its faves.
Usually, we can live in harmony with the level of yeast in our bodies—but sometimes, that yeast gets totally out of hand. If the immune system is unable to keep it in check, an infection is born.
Oral thrush in babies is the most common yeast infection to plague newborns and toddlers. —but thrush in infants can appear in other hot spots too. A popular location is the diaper area. (Diaper yeast infection is one of the many causes of diaper rash.)
Some causes of thrush in babies include:
Some causes of thrush in babies include:
Being a baby. Fungus spreads through saliva. Babies and saliva love each other. Their tiny immune systems can’t always keep up with the amount of fungus that’s decided to set up shop inside them. Sometimes infection happens.
Antibiotic and steroid medication. Antibiotics do a number on bacteria—good and bad. Because they lower the levels of good bacteria in your mouth, yeast is allowed to thrive. If either you or your baby is or has been on antibiotics, the chances of thrush increase. Steroid medication can also be a culprit because it weakens the immune system.
Vaginal birth. There’s a chance that thrush can be passed from mama to baby as your baby makes their way through the birth canal and out of your vagina. If you have a vaginal yeast infection during your pregnancy, chat to your doctor to find out about your treatment options. (You shall know the vaginal yeast infection by its itch and clumpy white discharge.)
How do you know if a baby has thrush?
So what are the symptoms of this fungal fun?
Here’s what you can expect:
Fussy feeds. If your baby is having trouble feeding, try your very best to get them to open wide. (It’s good practice for when you want to get a spoon in there one day.) Baby thrush might be the culprit. Also—there are many reasons why your little one might be having trouble feeding, from serious illness to a simple desire to belch. Check-in with your doctor if you’re worried. Your instincts are good.
White spots in and around the mouth. Thrush appears as little white spots on the tongue, gums, lips, and roof of the mouth. Not a bad idea to check your baby’s mouth for these every now and again, even if they don’t have other symptoms.
Cracked corners. If the outside of your baby’s mouth looks flakey, split, or dry, it might be baby thrush.
Is thrush painful for babies?
Yes, it can be. Their mouths can be quite uncomfortable and sore—making feeding tricky. (Some babies don’t feel much at all. Luck of the draw, really.)
Also, for added fun, their thrush may become your thrush. In a unique display of love, some mamas and babies get into a vicious cycle of infecting and reinfecting each other through breastfeeding. This can be really painful for you—causing anything from a mild itch to a serious burn. Your nipples may appear flakey and cracked. Some white patches may appear on and around your nipple. Also, your nipples might go a very deep pink.
How do you treat thrush in babies?
Although this sounds like a nightmare (and can seriously feel like one at the time), thrush in babies and mamas is definitely very treatable. If you suspect that this is what’s going on with you, chat to your healthcare provider as soon as you can. While baby thrush might go away on its own, no point in suffering through it—particularly if it’s being passed back and forth.
Your doctor may prescribe an anti-fungal medication for your baby’s mouth. A different kind of anti-fungal cream may be prescribed if it’s your baby’s bottom that’s at stake. And yet another kind for your nipples.
Depending on how old your baby is, your doctor may give you options to up the number of good bacteria. Like yogurt, if your baby can stomach it.
How can I treat my baby’s thrush at home?
Home remedies such as baking soda and gentian violet have worked for some mamas—but these are yet to be scientifically proven.
And, while you can’t prevent baby thrush from happening altogether, there are steps you can take to try to decrease the odds:
- Barrier up your breast pads. As it turns out, barrierless breast pads can create a lovely environment for yeast to flourish. It’s that moisture build-up.
- Clean those tiny fingers. They’re gross and they’re getting everywhere. Fact.
- Sterilize it all. Bottles, teething rings, pacifiers, breast pump—the lot.
- Keep stored breast milk cold and clean.
And lastly, although common, baby thrush (and mama thrush) can be a serious source of stress, especially when it keeps happening. Rally your tribe. Chat to other mamas on Peanut. Rant it out. And get the medical help you need. You really don’t need to do this alone.