Thrush is caused by a yeast-like fungus called Candida Albicans. This organism is common, and widespread and can live harmlessly in the mouth, on the skin, in the GI tract, and in the vagina.
Under certain conditions (stress, illness or specific medicines) candida can overgrow causing thrush – both orally, and as a diaper rash in babies.
In moms, candida can be found on the nipple, breast, or as a vaginal yeast infection. Yeast infections on the breast, or thrush, can also be caused by surface moisture.
Moms who experience leaky breasts should use caution and wear breast pads that wick moisture away from the nipple and breast and change them frequently to avoid harmful overgrowth of yeast.
Thrush can sometimes present itself as white patches on the baby’s tongue or inside the cheeks, while the mom may experience deep, shooting pains in her breast.
Sometimes a baby has whiteness on her tongue from milk which should not be confused with patches that do not go away.
Thrush can also occur if the mom has a cracked or bleeding nipple that is itchy or has not healed properly.
There are modern medications to treat thrush as well as natural remedies such as gentian violet and grapefruit seed extract (not to be confused with grapeseed extract), or acidophilus with Bifidus.
All of these items can be found at natural food or vitamin stores. For more information on how to use these remedies visit Kelly Mom.com.
It is important to have an in-person consultation with a Lactation Consultant to diagnose and treat thrush if you suspect it. The International Lactation Consultant Association website has a lactation consultant finder at ILCA.org.