What to Expect When Your Baby Has Thrush

Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the yeast candida albicans. One of the most apparent symptoms of oral thrush is the presence of white patches on the tongue, cheeks, or roof of the mouth with underlying redness. Thrush is a common infection and is treatable. Here is what to expect if you suspect your baby has thrush.

Key takeaways:

What is thrush?

Thrush is a fungal infection caused by yeast. Medically, it is known as oral candidiasis because the type of yeast that causes the infection is called candida albicans. About 5% to 7% of babies develop oral thrush.

Yeast infections can occur in other areas of the body as well, like the vagina, skin, nails, nipples, and digestive system. The body is usually able to control the presence of yeast. For people with a weakened immune system, like young infants, older adults, people on chemotherapy, or those with immune deficiencies, the body has a more challenging time controlling infections.

Causes of thrush

The use of antibiotics can cause yeast overgrowth. Antibiotics kill off bad bacteria, but they also can kill off good bacteria that helps prevent yeast infections.

Steroid medications like the common drugs cortisone or prednisone are also known for causing yeast infections.

Transferring yeast from the mother to the baby or vice versa is another way of getting thrush. If a mother has the presence of yeast in her vagina at the time of vaginal delivery, or if she has it on her skin or in her nipples, the baby can come into contact with the infection and become infected themselves. Babies with oral thrush can transfer the infection into their mother’s nipples and breasts during breastfeeding.

How to know if my baby has thrush?

Oral thrush causes redness and irritation of the mucous membranes and often has the appearance of a creamy white plaque-like substance on the tongue. This white plaque is difficult to wipe away, but when scraped off, it generally will reveal redness and inflammation underneath.

The inflammation and sores in the mouth can cause babies with oral thrush to be irritable, especially during their feedings. A diaper rash may also appear due to the baby swallowing, allowing the yeast to enter their body system.

Treatment options for baby thrush

Your doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication to give your baby, like the drug nystatin. There are also antifungal creams available for infections on the skin.

Mixing a small amount of baking soda with water and gently rubbing the solution onto your baby’s tongue or cheeks can also help to treat mild thrush.

Swabbing salt water onto the tongue and throughout the mouth is another home remedy that can help treat yeast overgrowth.

What to do if your baby has thrush

If your baby has thrush, here are steps you can take to help prevent infection in yourself:

  • Good handwashing. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap after feeding your baby or changing their diaper.
  • Clean baby products. Always wash your baby’s bottles with soap and water after every use. If your baby uses a pacifier, ensure it also gets washed frequently. Pumping products should also be cleaned after every use.
  • Good breast care. Regularly change breast pads and bras, especially if they become wet.
  • Eat probiotics. Taking probiotics will help to prevent yeast infections. Add yogurt to your diet or take a daily probiotic capsule.

It is possible for mild thrush to go away on its own after a couple of weeks. If the infection does not seem to improve and the symptoms worsen, contact your doctor so they can confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options.

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