Treating Yeast While Breastfeeding
Yeast (also called thrush or Candida) is a fungus that grows in warm, dark, moist environments, like the linings of the mouth and vagina, the diaper area, skin folds, bra padding, and on nipples that are frequently wet.
You may have breast yeast if you have:
- Constant nipple pain in the early weeks of breastfeeding.
- Nipple pain that starts after breastfeeding is going well and hasn’t been painful.
- Itchy or burning nipples that look pink or red, shiny, or flaky. Nipples can also look normal.
- Cracked nipples.
- Shooting pains deep in your breast during or after you nurse or pump.
- Intense nipple or breast pain that doesn’t get better with better latch-on and positioning.
- You are taking, or have just finished taking, antibiotics. Yeast infections are common following antibiotic treatment.
- You have a vaginal yeast infection.
- You’ve been told your baby has oral thrush (thick, white patches in his/her mouth) and/or a yeasty diaper rash.
Nipples with any sort of rash should be seen right away by your doctor. It could be a sign of another problem that needs treatment. Your doctor may take a cotton swab of your nipple area and send it to a lab for testing.
Yeast can be difficult to treat and is easily spread. Because of this, if you or your baby is diagnosed with yeast it is very important for both of you to be treated.
If Your Baby is in the Hospital
If you’re told your baby has yeast he/she will be treated with either a liquid medicine in their mouth called Nystatin (if yeast is found in their mouth) or an anti-fungal skin cream (if yeast is found on their skin).
- If the yeast infection is causing shooting or stabbing pains deep in your breast, it may be in your milk ducts, too. The best treatment for this is pills that must be prescribed by your doctor.
- If yeast is NOT deep in breasts and only on your nipples, then you can use an over-the-counter anti-fungal skin cream. Again, check with your doctor for instructions.
- Treatment should last at least 1-2 weeks after you (and your baby) feel all better to make sure it is gone.
What Can I Do?
There are other things you can do to help with yeast...
- Change or wash anything that comes in direct contact with your nipples (bras, bra pads, towels, etc.) in hot water with bleach daily. Dry on hot setting in the dryer.
- Use disposable breast pads until you are done using all medicines.
- Wash any pump parts that come in contact with the skin or milk in warm soapy water after each use. You can:
- Boil the parts for 20 minutes
- wash the parts in the dishwasher on high heat setting, or
- sterilize the parts using microwave steam bags.
- "Good" bacteria helps fend of the "bad" bacteria that cause yeast. Add some "good" bacteria to your diet with yogurt or supplements called probiotics that contain lactobacillus acidophilus.
- Sugar feeds the fungus and can make it worse! Limit the amount of yeast and sugar in your diet. This means cutting down on sugary foods, cheeses, breads, and alcohol.
Can I feed the baby this milk?
Yes: While you are using medicines for yeast your fresh, refrigerated, or frozen pumped breast milk can be used safely for your baby.
Freezing temporarily "shuts off" the yeast, but does not kill it. Be sure to label all milk that you’ve pumped during if you or your baby has thrush/yeast. Your baby’s doctor will decide if it is safe to use.
For questions or more information, your doctor or your baby’s doctor can call the Lactation Study Center (585) 275-0088.
For outpatient help, call the UR Medicine Breastfeeding & Lactation Services at (585) 276-MILK.