5 Home Remedies for Thrush in Babies

Learn how to treat thrush, those pesky white patches on your infant's tongue and cheeks, with ingredients that can be found in your pantry.

probiotic yogurt, baking soda, gentian violet
Photo: Adobe Stock (2); Getty Images (1)

Thrush is a common yeast infection characterized by white patches on the tongue and cheeks. Babies are most susceptible because yeast thrives in warm, wet places, like your little one's toothless mouth. Additionally, babies' immune systems aren't fully developed to fight the yeast off.

This overgrowth of yeast can be caused by illness (which lowers your baby's natural defenses) or the use of antibiotics. "When we use antibiotics, we kill good bacteria along with the 'bad' bacteria, and this imbalance can make it easier for undesirable species to overgrow," explains Miranda Hillard, M.D., a pediatrician at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

If you suspect your child has thrush, consult a pediatrician to confirm the diagnosis and get a treatment plan. Read on to learn about how you can treat thrush at home.

Conventional Treatment for Thrush in Babies

Anti-fungal medications are the preferred medical treatment for thrush. "Thrush is usually treated with prescribed anti-fungal medicine such as Nystatin; it's a topical treatment placed on the baby's tongue," says Joe Craig, M.D., FAAP, a Kaiser Permanente pediatrician in Colorado.

"Instead of just dropping it on the tongue, parents can use an ear cleaner to gently apply it to baby's tongue. It's best used after a feeding, so the breastmilk or formula doesn't wash away the medicine."

However, if the thrush isn't severe and doesn't make your baby uncomfortable, you can also talk to your doctor about treating it naturally.

Natural Treatment for Thrush in Babies

Though natural remedies can work for yeast infections like thrush, it's always best to include your child's pediatrician in the conversation. "I'd recommend parents consult a pediatrician and ask them what's right for baby—it all depends on your personal preference and what you feel is best for your child," explains Dr. Craig.

Your baby's immune system is still developing, and some natural remedies may not be suited to your baby. So make sure you run anything you do by a doctor first to ensure it's what's best for your baby.

Here are some natural remedies that may be used to treat thrush.

Diet changes

The first place to start? If your child is eating solids, you can try reducing the amount of sugar your little one is consuming. Since Candida albicans (aka yeast) thrives off of sugar, it makes sense that reducing sugary foods in their diet—once they're on solids, of course—can help stave off oral thrush. That includes fruit, as well as refined carbohydrates, added sugars, juice, and artificial sweeteners, which your baby shouldn't be having anyway.

Saltwater

Not only does salt act like an antiseptic, it may also soothe the symptoms of thrush. Dissolve a half teaspoon of salt into 1 cup of warm water. Gently paint the lesions with this saltwater solution using a cotton swab.

Baking soda

Diluted baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) may also combat the symptoms of thrush. Dissolve a half teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of warm water, and apply to your child's thrush with a cotton swab. You can also apply the paste on your nipples before breastfeeding (just wipe off before your baby latches).

Coconut oil

Thanks to caprylic acid, a component of coconut oil, this slimy substance may help with infant thrush. Apply it to your child's white patches with a cotton swab. However, you should ensure they aren't allergic to coconut beforehand and watch for any adverse reactions after it's applied as well.

Yogurt

Natural yogurt is chock-full of bacteria like Lactobacillus bulgaricus, a particularly helpful probiotic that can help encourage a better balance of yeast in your baby's mouth. The influx of "good" bacteria from foods like yogurt can effectively stop thrush from spreading.

Make sure you choose a yogurt that's unflavored and unsweetened—that's because Candida albicans, the fungus that causes yeast infections, loves sugar. If your little one is too young to eat yogurt, try applying a thin layer to affected areas with a cotton swab. You can also search for infant-safe probiotics.

Natural Remedies to Avoid

Some experts rely on gentian violet for its anti-fungal properties, but you should weigh the pros against the cons of this natural treatment. "Gentian violet applied to the mucosa once or twice daily is effective," says Dr. Hillard. "However, gentian violet is associated with an increased risk of cancer, can stain the infant's lips and clothing, and may cause irritation and ulceration. Given the availability of other effective agents, we generally do not suggest gentian violet."

How to Prevent Recurring Thrush Naturally

In order to prevent reinfection of thrush, parents should take extra steps to ensure all items that go in their baby's mouth are cleaned and sterilized. They should also boil nipples and pacifiers after each use, says Dr. Hillard. "Failure to improve or resolve within two weeks may be related to persistent re-exposure—like from pacifiers or bottle nipples—or infection with an unusual species," she says.

If a parent is breastfeeding or chestfeeding, they should also be treated for thrush too, or else they might pass the infection back and forth with their baby.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles