If you are experiencing persistent nipple pain in the early weeks of breastfeeding or are suddenly experiencing nipple pain after months of pain free breastfeeding, you may be suffering from thrush. If you have been susceptible to vaginal yeast infections before or during pregnancy then you may be more prone to thrush. Also, if you or your baby has taken antibiotics or steroids you will be more at risk. Symptoms you need to watch out for are: itchy or burning nipples, cracked nipples, shooting pain in the nipples after feeding and intense nipple pain that is not caused by poor latch on. Your baby may also display signs of a yeast infection which include; diaper rash, white patches on the inside of the mouth, breast refusal and repeated clicking while nursing.
 
It can be difficult to diagnose and you will need to contact your G.P. as both you and your baby will need to be treated. There is no definitive way to diagnose thrush, though it is often visible in the baby’s mouth in the form of white patches. Your G.P. will more than likely base his decision on the mother and baby’s history and will begin treatment if necessary. If the mother and baby begin to respond to treatment for a yeast infection the diagnosis will be confirmed. Symptoms should begin to respond to the treatment within four days and treatment should be continued for one to two weeks. If there are no signs of improvement then you will need to consult with your doctor to reevaluate the diagnosis.
 
Breastfeeding should continue during any thrush outbreak, but if it becomes too painful, expressing milk for a few days may be a good option. Pumping should be done as often as feeding and if the baby is younger than four to six weeks milk should be offered by finger or cup feeding to avoid nipple confusion. It is very important during a thrush break out to take precautions to reduce the chances of reinfection:
 
  • Wash hands often using hot, soapy water.
  • Expressed milk should not be frozen during treatment as yeast is not killed by freezing.
  • Breast pumps, toys or pacifiers should be boiled for 20 minutes a day.
  • Nipples should be rinsed with cool clear water after feeding
  • Bras should be changed should they become damp.
  • Decrease consumption of foods that contain high amounts of sugar, artificial sweeteners and or yeast(such as wine, minerals, desserts, bread)
  • Eliminate dairy foods from your diet as yeast thrives on dairy products.

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