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Babies and Thrush: Everything You Need to Know

Sadly, infants and young children are highly susceptible to a relatively wide range of illnesses and conditions because of their comparatively weak immune systems. One common condition that many babies and toddlers experience is thrush, especially in their earliest months of life when they’re wholly dependent on breastfeeding or baby formula for nourishment.

But what, exactly, is thrush? Is it dangerous? What are the symptoms it causes? And is there anything that parents can do to help protect their child from developing the condition? These questions and more are probably cycling through your mind right now, especially if you’re a new parent whose baby is experiencing issues related to the condition.

Thankfully, our team of parenting experts at 123 Baby Box is here to help explain the essential information you’ll need to know about the illness and what it means for your child.

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What is Thrush, and What Causes it?

Also called candidiasis, thrush is a type of fungal infection caused by Candida yeast- the same fungus responsible for yeast infections. The condition typically triggers the development of white, cottage cheese-looking patches on the child’s tongue, inner cheeks, and the top of their mouth. However, that applies mainly to oral thrush. While it is the most common type, infants can also be impacted by thrush affecting their eyes, diaper area, skin folds, and fingernails.

Thrush occurs when Candida albicans begins growing rapidly in a baby’s mouth or on other areas of their body. But it’s very prevalent in their mouth because the yeast thrives best in moist, warm places, eventually leading to an infection.

Doctors aren’t entirely sure why infants develop thrush, but many believe it’s because their weak immune system can’t fight it off. This is largely corroborated by the fact that many infants develop the condition after an antibiotic course, which naturally reduces the body’s healthy bacteria. However, doctors have noted that some babies may develop thrush after birth if their mother experienced a yeast infection during her pregnancy and had a natural birth. 

Thrush Symptoms In Infants

A fussy, crying baby.

Aside from the aforementioned white patches that appear on an infant’s tongue, inner cheeks, and on the top of their mouth, thrush can also trigger a range of other symptoms, including;

  • Pain and discomfort (especially when bottle or breastfeeding)
  • Excess fussiness or temperamental behavior
  • Dry mouth
  • Redness
  • A loss of taste

One of the easiest ways to determine if your baby has thrush is to take note of any of those white patches in their mouth. Wash your hand and try to wipe off the white substance with a cloth or gauze-covered finger. Breastmilk and formula residue can remain on your baby’s tongue for a little under an hour after feeding before it dissolves. They’re likely dealing with thrush if you can’t wipe the marks away.

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How To Get Rid of Thrush

Thrush doesn’t always require treatment and can sometimes go away on its own after only a few days. However, it’s still important to meet with your regular pediatrician to receive a formal diagnosis and get their input. 

If the condition is severe enough, your pediatrician will likely prescribe a course of antifungal medication to treat the infection. The medicine prescribed is usually applied directly to the sores present in the baby’s mouth. 

However, suppose the baby is breastfeeding, and their mother has developed a yeast infection on her nipples (we’ll talk more about this in a moment). In that case, the doctor may also recommend an over-the-counter antifungal cream that can be applied to her breasts. In some cases, the pediatrician may also prescribe an oral antifungal prescription like Diflucan (fluconazole).

Most cases of thrush in babies will typically resolve within one to two weeks of medical treatment.

Related: Signs Your Baby is Overheating

Is Thrush Contagious?

A mother holding her fussy baby.

Sadly, yes, thrush is contagious. If you’re breastfeeding, then there’s a high likelihood that your baby isn’t the only one suffering from a yeast infection. The fungal infection can spread back and forth from the baby’s mouth to their mother’s breast and back during nursing sessions if both of them aren’t treated by a medical professional. 

Some of the most commonly observed symptoms that women can experience after receiving thrush from their baby include sore and burning nipples, along with their nipples taking on a flaky, itchy, pink, shiny, or crusty appearance. They may also experience a sharp pain sensation that shoots through their breasts during or after feeding. 

Can You Prevent Thrush?

Thankfully, there are many steps that parents can take to help prevent their baby from developing thrush for the first time and help prevent it from making a reappearance if their baby has been treated for it before. These include;

  • Taking the time to wash your baby’s toys and pacifiers regularly
  • Keeping up with proper hygiene through bathtimes and handwashes 
  • Regularly laundering towels, clothing, and bras that may have come into contact with thrush-causing bacteria
  • Keeping all breast milk refrigerated to prevent the growth of yeast
  • Regularly sterilizing breast pump equipment
  • Ensuring that your breasts are cleaned and thoroughly dried after every feeding session
  • Avoiding disposable nursing pads

Related: Babies & Heat Rash: What You Should Know

Final Thoughts to Consider

Now that you understand the basics of thrush, what causes it, what it does to your baby, and how it can be treated and prevented, you should be able to more effectively protect yourself and your precious bundle of joy from the condition as well as possible. If you’d like access to even more expert information regarding infant care, health, and wellness, please consider exploring the wide selection of top-quality resources provided by our parenting professionals at 123 Baby Box. Also, be sure to consider subscribing to our monthly gift box!

Sometimes it can be tricky to figure out fun new ways to bond with your baby and help promote their developmental growth, especially during their youngest years. Thankfully our parenting experts at 123 Baby Box are here to provide families with a top-quality selection of toys and essentials.