My baby has white patches on his tongue and cheeks. Could it be thrush? Read about causes, diagnosis, prevention, plus how to treat thrush naturally in babies.
Thrush in Infants occurs, in part, because of their developing immune system, which is immature to fight off the fungus that causes it. Thrush occurs in approximately 2-5% of healthy newborns and infants in the first year of life (source). A natural thrush treatment, when used with pediatrician’s recommended treatment plan and with lot of dedication, can be treated easily.
What is Thrush in Infant?
Thrush is fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the Candida Albicans, that normally lives on our skin and mucous membranes. Most people have Candida as a normal flora and is controlled by an immune system and good bacteria in the body. However, infants are at more risk as their immune system is immature.
Thrush in infant can appear as white patches or sore that coat infant’s cheeks, tongue, roof of a mouth and a diaper rash. Thrush can be uncomfortable and painful for infant and breastfeeding mom, as they pass infection among each other.
How Infants get Thrush?
Fungus that causes thrush is part of normal flora in our body. As mentioned earlier, because of immature immune system, infants are at risk to acquire this infection.
Generally, our body’s immune systems fight with the invading harmful virus, bacteria or fungus, maintaining the balance between ‘’good’’ and “bad’’ organism in our body. But If you are sick and start taking antibiotics, then it disturbs body’s natural defence mechanism. Resulting in increase in “bad” organisms (Candida) to flourish and cause infection.
Infant may have picked up infection in your birth canal, if you had a vaginal delivery. As Candida is generally found in mouth and vagina. Fungus likes to grow in warm, dark and moist places. Hence, it is more common in newborns.
Older babies can also suffer from infection, if they were treated with antibiotic for other condition. Which, kills “good” organism that keeps fungus under control.
Thrush can also develop on mother’s breast if she has sore nipple, cracked nipple or wet nipple, where moisture is present, causing infection.
How to Diagnose Thrush in Infant?
How do you know if your baby has thrush or normal coating of milk on tongue from breastmilk or formula? Many moms get confused about diagnosing whether their Infant showing symptoms of thrush. The key is to check infant’s tongue and cheeks carefully for lesion and look for baby’s behavior as it could be painful.
Symptoms of thrush in Infants
- White patches inside Infant’s cheeks or on his tongue or gums, that looks like a coating of milk.
- These coating of milk does not disappear after few hours of feeding. When wiped off they leave red sore areas. In severe cases, it may bleed.
- Loss of appetite in Infant.
- It may be painful for your infant, refusing to breastfeed or making clicking sound while feeding.
If you see above symptoms in your infant, it is likely that he got the infection. If you are breastfeeding your baby, it is highly likely that you got an infection too. Look out for following symptoms.
Symptoms of thrush in a mother
- Red, itchy nipple
- Burning nipple pain while feeding
- Shiny or Flaking skin on the nipple
- Stabbing pains in the breasts after feeding
Pain from thrush persist throughout feeds and does not go away when your infant is done feeding. Not to be confused with pain caused by general nursing, pain from thrush infection is more intense and feels like sharp needle poke in your breast.
Natural Remedies to treat Thrush in Infant
If you suspect thrush in your Infant, you should go to your pediatrician and discuss the treatment plan. Generally, they will prescribe oral nystatin or fluconazole for both of you. They both are proven effective in treating fungal infection. It’s important to continue breastfeeding during treatment and if pain is severe, ask your doctor about painkiller along with treatment plan.
Nystatin may not work for all (it did not work for us) as it only works part of the time if given every 90 min. Actually, sugar in this medication encourages the fungus growth and pain to apply on affected area. Worry not, there are effective natural remedies that works. Before considering natural remedies for your infant, consult a pediatrician.
Thrush spreads easily, so both you and your Infant need simultaneous treatment to avoid reinfecting one another.
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People have used Gentian Violet as a natural remedy to treat thrush. It has a strong anti-fungal property against candida species. It is applied topically inside infant’s cheeks, tongue and on mother’s nipple. However, scientific literature shows evidence of its carcinogenic properties in mice study (source). Many mothers have used it successfully to treat thrush infection in Infant and there are no reported incidences of cancer in human. If you decide to use Gentian Violet, use 1% solution of it. Beware that, it will stain everything blue that come in contact with this dye.
Calendula Officianalis is a herb, that has been shown to promote wound healing in the skin (source). Juice of Calendula is topically to treat thrush on mother’s affected nipples. It is often used by naturopathic doctors as an alternative to the potentially carcinogenic Gentian Violet. It is applied topically on the baby’s tongue, cheeks, gum and mother’s nipple.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract is a broad-spectrum anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral compound made from the seeds and pulp of grapefruit. It is popular as alternative medication to treat Candida infection. Although, there are no direct scientific evidence of it being effective (source).
Mix 10 drops of GSE (buy here) with one ounce of water. Apply it to mother’s nipples and baby’s mouth once every hour and before every feeding in your baby’s mouth.
If this is not enough to clear thrush within 2-3 days, then you should probably discuss alternative to your doctors.
Coconut Oil is also used successfully to treat thrush along with other remedies. The medium chain fatty acids and lauric acid in coconut oil are potent antimicrobial agents that kills Candida albicans (source). It is applied topically to mother’s nipple and Infant’s mouth. When choosing coconut oil, look for a product that is cold-pressed from fresh coconuts (buy here).
Eat Lactobacillus Acidophilus
Lactobacillus are found in yogurt. These live bacteria can help keep fungus in check. Eat yogurt or take these live bacteria as a pill. Probiotics are also safe to use for babies. Infant can’t eat yogurt so look for probiotic for babies. Probiotics also helps in infant colic and acid reflux.
It may be helpful to treat Infant with acidophilus powder. Apply acidophilus powder to you clean finger and let baby suck on the finger before feeding.
How to Prevent Recurring?
Now, we know some remedies to treat thrush in Infant. Mild form of thrush can be treated easily and usually gone within 2-3 weeks. Thrush spreads easily, lingers everywhere and ready to infect the next contact. So, it is important to prevent recurring.
Following approach should be considered to combat thrush and prevent recurring.
Eating a balanced diet and drinking enough water is important when fighting any infection. Reducing sugar intake and processed food (source) is essential, as sugary diet can worsen the thrush symptoms. Some moms have also suggested reducing the intake of yeasty foods such as bread, mushrooms and nutritional yeast as they may exacerbate thrush. If you decide to make diet change, you may want to consult doctor first.
- Include fermented food like plain yogurt, sauerkraut in your regular diet
- You can include vitamin, mineral rich foods or supplements (like this one) in your daily diet
- Include food with antibacterial properties like garlic, ginger, turmeric, clove or supplemetns in your daily diet
- Fruits also has natural fruit sugar in it. So, limit your intake.
- If you are taking antibiotic for other condition, then take probiotic too (3-4 hours after taking antibiotics)
Maintaining hygiene is very essential to prevent recurring or spread of thrush within household.
- Keep your nipple dry after each feed. If you use breast pad choose disposable ones and change them frequently.
- Hand Hygiene particularly after diaper change. Do not use antibacterial hand soap, as it also removes good flora from hands.
- Wash baby’s and your cloths frequently at high temperature. Wash everything that comes in contact with affected area at high temperature.
- Regularly sterilize bottles, pump accessories, toys (Can’t stress this enough). If you don’t have sterilizer, you can sterilise everything by boiling it for 20 min in water.
- Avoid freezing expressed breast milk when you have thrush, as low temperature do not kill fungus.
- Candida can not thrive in acidic condition so use white vinegar while washing cloth or bathing ( ½ cup). You can also rinse your nipple with 1 tsp of white vinegar in 150 ml of water after feed.
Yes, It may take a little time, discipline and persistence to combat thrush infection. Using diet, hygiene, supplements and natural remedies along with any prescribed medication helps deal with this opportunistic infection and prevention. All we want to do is, don’t give an opportunity to thrive in our household.
How about you?
Do you or your Infant has thrush? How did you treat it? Do you have natural thrush remedies that worked for you? Please let us know in comment below.
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