Until starting your breastfeeding journey, you may have heard of only one type of yeast infection—the vaginal kind. However, there is another type, known as thrush, that is caused by a fungus that lives on our skin and elsewhere. It can be common in both the breastfeeding parent and the infant.
Thrush is a type of yeast infection that can occur on the nipples, areola, and breasts when breastfeeding. Like other types of yeast infections, it is caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans, the most common fungus to live on (and in) humans—often on our skin and in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina1.
Research hasn’t conclusively indicated any specific time periods when thrush may be most prevalent. But you may be more prone to experiencing it, if your baby was born prematurely or had a low birth weight, or if you have a history of chronic yeast infections, which may correlate to gut microbiome imbalances. Additionally, mothers or infants who’ve been treated with an antibiotic may be more likely to experience thrush.
Several factors can play a role in causing thrush. If you have an existing vaginal yeast infection, it may travel to other parts of your body, including your nipples and areolas, which may impact breastfeeding. Taking antibiotics can also increase the risk of thrush, so it’s a good idea to talk to your provider about taking probiotics if you need antibiotics, as this may help increase your body’s levels of good gut bacteria that can help control a fungus like Candida.
It’s generally safe to continue breastfeeding normally, if you’re experiencing thrush. To help manage your symptoms and establish a treatment plan, try the following:
If you experience any itching, burning, or flaking of the skin, contact your provider to diagnose or rule out an infection. Thrush is a common cause for skin issues on the nipple or areola. But because other chronic issues, such as psoriasis or eczema, can appear with symptoms that overlap with thrush, it’s important to consult your provider before attempting any self-treatment.
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