Thrush is a yeast infection characterized by white patches on the tongue and cheeks. Learn how to treat thrush in babies and prevent spreading the infection to mothers. 

Updated November 18, 2019
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Thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth that is very common in babies and their breastfeeding mothers. Yeast thrives in warm, wet places, and your baby's mouth is an ideal home for it, especially before she grows teeth (the bacteria that grow naturally on teeth help keep the yeast at bay). It happens most often after a baby has taken antibiotics, which can throw the balance of natural bacteria in the mouth out of whack, allowing yeast to grow. It can also spread between a mother and her baby through breastfeeding sessions

Thrush presents as white patches on the tongue and inside the cheeks. Although the condition can look icky, it isn't painful and shouldn't interfere with feeding. Getting the proper treatment can help your little one feel better sooner. Here’s what you need to know about mother and baby thrush treatment. 

How to Get Rid of Thrush in Babies

To be certain it's thrush, you should see the pediatrician. In some cases, your baby's thrush can go away on its own, and your pediatrician may not prescribe medications. But if he's symptomatic or appears to be uncomfortable, your privovider may prescribe an anti-fungal liquid, which you'd apply to the patches four times a day for at least a week, says Preeti Parikh, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician, assistant clinical professor in the Pediatrics Department at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and an American Academy of Pediatrics fellow and spokesperson 

How to Treat Thrush in Mothers

A possible explanation for chronic thrush is that you and your baby are passing the infection back and forth during breastfeeding. Yeast can live on the skin, so if your baby develops thrush, you should treat your breasts as well, even if you don't have symptoms (which include nipple pain, itching and burning, and sometimes a flaky, blistery rash).

The most important thing when dealing with thrush is that both Mom and Baby get treated (even if only one of you has symptoms) so you don't keep passing the infection back and forth.  "For mom who is breastfeeding, an anti-fungal ointment should be applied to the nipples after nursing,” says Dr. Parikh. It also helps to stay topless whenever possible while you heal (nothing new for a nursing mom!) so your skin can air out.

You should also sterilize all bottle nipples, pacifiers, and breast pump equipment because yeast can remain on these items and re-infect you and your baby. Run them through the hottest setting of your dishwasher or boil them for 20 minutes.

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