The Identification and Treatment of Thrush

  • Posted by Cheryl Taylor, CBE

Thrush is a yeast infection that can present itself in your baby’s mouth or on your nipples. When thrush is in either of these locations, you may also find the yeast deep in the breast tissue, vaginally or on your baby’s diaper area. When the yeast infection presents itself, it may be in all or one of these locations. Symptoms of thrush may include:

  • Unusually pink or red nipples.
  • Cracked or bleeding nipples
  • Itching or burning nipples
  • A shooting pain deep within the breast
  • Pain that continues throughout a nursing session
  • White patches inside the baby’s mouth. (the inside of his cheeks is a “thrive” zone and an easy to identify location)
  • Yeast infections in other locations (diaper area, vaginal)

If you or your infant contract thrush and present yourself to your Pediatrician, you are likely to be sent home with a prescription for Nystatin. It is the most commonly used medication when dealing with thrush. There is a liquid medication for giving to the baby, and a cream that can be placed on your nipples. Other treatments used are Gentian Violet and Diflucan. <span “>My reservations with beginning with the above medications are that the Nystatin liquid contains sugar to make it palatable enough that baby will swallow it. However, yeast feeds on sugar. This may be the reason why it is often not effective. Gentian Violet is effective, but stains skin purple for several days. I have some lovely photos of my twins with purple faces! Diflucan is very effective, but can cause intestinal distress in mom and/or baby. For these reasons, I prefer to begin with Grapefruit Seed Extract as the first line of defense. I have found that the use of Grapefruit Seed Extract as recommended almost always brings rapid relief and an elimination of the yeast imbalance. <span “>Grapefruit Seed Extract is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial compound synthesized from the seeds and pulp of grapefruit. It is an extremely potent and effective broad-spectrum bactericide, fungicide, antiviral and antiparasitic compound. Tests have shown that GSE is dramatically more effective than Colloidal Silver, Iodine, Tea Tree Oil and Clorox bleach against five common microorganisms. In studies performed by Dr. John Mainarich of Bio-Research Laboratories in Redmond, WA, samples of each of the common antimicrobials or sanitizing agents were evaluated for effectiveness against Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella typhi, Streptococcus faecium and E. coli. The other antimicrobials tested were considerably less effective than the GSE.  GSE is extremely effective in the treatment of thrush. I also find it to be the easiest place to start. If used diligently, it typically will clear up thrush within a couple of days.

Treatment of thrush with GSE

  • Make a mixture of 10 drops of Citricidal Grapefruit Seed Extract to one ounce of water. The use of distilled water to make your solution is very important.  The chemicals placed in your local tap water to kill bacteria can reduce the effectiveness of the active ingredients in GSE.
  • IF thrush is not markedly improved by the second day, increase the mixture to 15, or even 20 drops of GSE per one ounce of distilled water.   If after reaching up to at least 20, and a full day of hourly treatment with it, you see no improvement, I would consider using Diflucan.  If you are prescribed Diflucan, continue to treat topically with GSE during the course of treatment.
  • Use this solution with an absorbent swab on mom’s nipples and baby’s mouth once every hour during all waking hours. Swab baby’s mouth priorto nursing and mom’s nipples after nursing.  Applying it to baby’s mouth prior to nursing will help them to  avoid the possibility of baby associating the bitter taste with nursing.
  • If diaper area is affected, put the same strength solution into a spray bottle or swab as above at every diaper change.
  • If the infection is particularly rampant or you are having difficulty getting rid of it, mom may need to take acidophilus or GSE capsules to get rid of it systemically.
  • GSE solution can also be used in laundry or as a surface cleaner to kill yeast hiding and waiting to multiply again.
  • It may be necessary for Mom to eliminate sugar from her diet until the yeast infection is gone.

If treatment with GSE seems to leave your nipple area dry, I suggest applying a light coating of Vitamin E oil in the following manner: First apply the GSE solution, allow that to dry or use a hairdryer to dry it completely, then apply a light coating of Vitamin E oil.  I would suggest doing this 3 to 4 times a day until the dryness is gone.  It should only take a couple of days to show significant improvement.  The Vitamin E oil should absorb into the skin thoroughly prior to the nursing following the application.  I’m a big fan of Lansinoh, but do not use it when dealing with thrush, because it provides a moisture barrier that is counterproductive to getting rid of thrush. <span “>Since learning of the powerful antimicrobial that Grapefruit Seed Extract is, I have always kept a bottle in my home for many uses. <span “>For more information on GSE:

For prevention of thrush while taking antibiotics: <span “>There are times over the course of nursing when a nursing mother needs to take antibiotics.  While taking antibiotics, good bacteria are destroyed  along with the bad. The absence of the good bacteria, which usually keep yeast in reasonable balance within the body, is what can leave a nursing dyad with thrush.   There are several options that may help to avoid this imbalance:

  • Take acidophilus/bifidus capsules with doses being as far away from the dose of antibiotics as is possible.  There is dairy free acidophilus available for those needing dairy free products.  Check labels for ones requiring refrigeration.
  • Take Florastor, which can be taken with the antibiotic dose.
  • Eat yogurt with active live cultures.  Make sure you get unsweetened yogurt as you don’t want to feed the yeast with sugar.

All of these probiotics help to reintroduce to the gut the good bacteria that will help to regain control of the yeast overgrowth in the system. <span “>If the infant or child is the one taking the antibiotics, they usually fare better at avoiding thrush while taking antibiotics because breastmilk has a bifidus factor.  It promotes the growth of Lactobacillus, a harmless bacterium, within the gut.  Growth of this bacteria helps to eliminate the overgrowth of yeast.  A toddler or child can also take acidophilus.  The powder itself has a pleasant creamy taste and most are happy to lick it off your finger, take it with spoon or you can mix it into a food.

69 Comments

  1. Tania

    Hi- I have a question for me but also one for my infant daughter (10 weeks) so I’m not sure if it will be relevant for this posting…
    in regards to me, I’ve been having so many issues with breastfeeding but I am still exclusively breastfeeding and my daughter seems to be gaining weight well although she has other issues that I will mention later. I continuosly went to our lactation consultant 2-3 x a week in the beginning and a M.o.m Support group so I could get latching well so that it wouldn’t continue to hurt me, but I still let her nurse on demand and we co sleep so she eats very frequently.
    During week 3, I was given Diflucan for ductal thrush (?) and my daughter nystatin, which i see you mention as not very effective. The thing is, she didn’t have any signs of it anywhere but possibly her tongue.

    Fast fwd to 10 weeks, we have moved states and I no longer am seeing a LC but went to Family practice dr who didn’t seem phased by my complaints of this milk blister (white spot on my left breast) and lumps and pain. What I did do was nurse no matter how excruciatingly painful it was, did warm compresses and took ibuprofen. The lumps seem to have dissapeared but the blister is still there although now not raised, I don’t have any red streaking on my breast but I have constant sharp pangs of pain and my nipples feel like they are burning. I bought GSE and just tried tonight applying them to see if its even thrush that I’m battling. My right breast doesn’t seem to be affected at all. I have also been taking probiotics for the past 3 weeks. I really don’t understand what is going on and I am just in pain when I nurse and it makes me feel terrible that the dr told me to only worry about mastitis or anything if I have a fever or have red streaking.

    In regards to my daughter…
    went in at 6 weeks because of all the symptoms which pedi described as reflux (even though we said she rarely spits up) and prescribed her Zantac. We did one day of dosing and after research on my own, and my instinct, I did not feel comfortable giving this to her. She has been pretty much the same ever since she was born with bouts of inconsolable crying, back arching phases during nursing, arching when she’s crying while we hold her, she sleeps on either of our chests at night, and she is able to nurse whenever she wants as I feel like maybe I can soothe her. The only remedies I give are the Homeopathic ColicCalm, which seems to work but I feel worried giving it to her so much even though it is homeopathic (dairy, gluten, allergen free) and hylands colic, and recently teething since we thought maybe thats what is happening (but realized lactose based and have now stopped). She sleeps very restlessly and is constantly waking herself up and will randomly wake up screaming. She has all sorts of gurgling going on and sometimes when she nurses I will feel some bubble go down and moments later she unlatches and is upset.
    Also, my letdown always seems to affect her, and she always pulls off or bites down hard which hurts me. She commonly chokes when she first nurses. I have tried nursing uphill and always nurse one side every session only. I’m confused with if that is also part of all these issues.
    We keep her upright after feedings, I babywear her all day and hold her to soothe her, and give warm baths and infant massage to see if this helps with her fussiness, gassiness, unhappiness! But it just seems to distract her.
    Her bowel movements have been ok, but recently in the past 2 weeks green, and this morning diarrhea (watery green stool) and then changed to yellow mucuousy.
    What also concerns me is that I am allergic to dairy and have been completely dairy free for the past 3 years – No Lactose or Casein, I read every label and cook most of my foods without eating any/much processed foods. I am now thinking I should cut out eggs, wheat, nuts (pb) – is almond milk something to also cut out since I’ve been drinking that since I cut out soymilk. I’m exhausted as to what could be causing my daughter to be so unhappy and in so much ‘writhing’ pain. From my instinct, she is a happy baby that is in pain, as I see glimmers of her smiling and happy and content. I don’t know how to fix this issue with my breast pain and her pain. I go through day to day thinking I can get through another day nursing and also worry about the next inconsolable crying session.. the past 2 days she has been nursing less than usual but I keep trying ways to keep her around and she will usually nurse at night which makes me feel better… she is hardly happy nursing because of her pain and i know she wants to be… i have looked at the roof of her moiuth and some parts of her gums have a yellowness to it.. that isn’t thrush is it?

    also, a naturopath I went to see recommended giving her probiotics, by opening a capsule and dipping a finger… I wonder if she has reacted to this negatively. I keep going thru what it could be all these weeks but frankly this has been going on for what feels like forever!

    I’m sorry this is so long – I am not sure what to do at this point! I am dairy free and exclusively breastfeeding, i can’t understand what is happening. Any reccommendations would be so great. Thanks!

    1. Cheryl Taylor

      Contact me via email at cheryl@drjaygordon.com with the specifics of your diet and I'll help you take a closer look at this. You may need to consider an allergy elimination diet to identify what the problems are. With your food allergies, the likelihood that your daughter has inherited this tendency is great.

      Food allergies are more common than many realize! The top 7 food allergens are dairy, egg, soy, wheat, citrus, nuts and shellfish. However, while most food allergies end up being one of the top seven it is possible to react to other foods, particularly proteins. It can be difficult to ascertain what food might be bothering your breastfed infant, particularly if dairy is one of the allergens because it can take up to six weeks before it is undetectable in breastmilk.

      Often when there are food allergy symptoms the elimination of dairy, egg, soy and wheat will hit on the food allergen and improvements will be seen within the first week. Dairy is by far the most common food allergy but also the hardest to eliminate because of the time it takes to completely leave the system. However, it does begin to lower and will continue to drop as it is scrupulously kept out of the diet. Be careful to keep an eye out for all processed foods that all too commonly have casein, whey or other hidden dairy in them.

      If eliminating the top 4, or top 7 food allergens does not help you with indentification of the culprit, I would suggest that you consider and elimination diet that will help you reduce the variables and approach it from the other direction. While it takes commitment, it is a much easier way to get clear answers to what is causing the symptoms.

      The elimination diet I recommend takes you back initially to only fruits and vegetables minus anything that is very acidic….so no citrus or tomatoes. There is rarely a reaction to veggies and fruits that aren't acidic. A few days of this diet will help you see if the diarrhea or visible blood in stools stops and green BM is turned more "normal" color.

      The next thing I add is beans for protein. I recommend one kind of bean at a time. I would not use legumes, soybeans or garbanzo beans, because sometimes children that are allergic to peanuts will react to other legumes or garbanzo beans and soy is in the top 10 food allergens. There are still a lot of options with pintos, black beans, black-eyed peas, lima beans, navy beans, etc. This will let you see if your baby can handle the protein in beans and get some protein back into your diet. The first grain I would add after this is rice. Sometimes it can be an allergen, but usually it is not.

      While you are doing this elimination diet keep track of what you are eating and the correlating state of baby's symptoms. You will get to where you can recognize immediately a reaction that you see 4 – 6 hrs after you eat something and have nursed. Space the introduction of any food item out by 4-5 days.

      I know it's hard to think about a diet that does not include meat, but temporarily I would suggest it. Some babies that are allergic to dairy are also allergic to beef. Some that are allergic to eggs are also allergic to chicken. In all my years of working with Dr. Jay I have seen one infant that reacted severely to chicken. That experience taught me to suspect anything that is a protein.

      You will need to really expand your thinking about veggie options. Make soups, stir fry veggies, salads…when you get to rice experiment with ones you have never tried before and flavoring them with different veggies diced and cooked with the rice.

      Following this elimination diet you will begin to identify what the allergens are within a couple of weeks. The most encouraging thing to see is a couple of days after you begin veggies and fruits only seeing your baby's system begin to calm down. Most situations begin to improve in the first 2-7 days, though some can take 1-3 weeks. Now it does take patience because their intestines and lining of the stomach are irritated from tolerating things they are reacting to, but it will calm down with a little time.

      I would recommend you go to the library and pick up "Is This Your Child?" by Dr. Doris Rapp. This is an eye-opening book regarding children's allergies. It's a thick read, but even taking a look at sections of it will help you understand that food allergies can cause digestion difficulties, skin reactions and even behavioral changes.

      Another area for you to consider is using a position that will help slow the flow of your milk. The cradle hold puts the baby's head below the breast and if letdown is fast it can cause baby to gulp and take in air. Using the clutch/football hold to get baby's head above the breast level may help her calm down for nursings. Have you located your local La Leche group for some knowledgeable breastfeeding support?

  2. Kati

    Is it possible to have thrush but no pain, just incredible itching? I have no pain other than the initial let down pain while nursing, but my nipples and areola have dry scaly red patches that itch worse than anything! But again, I have none of the shooting throbbing pain. My Dr. prescribed Diflucan, but only two pills. I'm concerned that if I take those two, it may not be enough and cause it to come back worse. Im starting the GSE as well…but I'm nursing twins so the potential that we could all be sharing and spreading yeast is scary lol.

  3. Vanessa

    hi,need some help. my son is 10 & half months old & we have had thrush on & off since he was about 2 months old. it was first thought to be eczema. now i think i have intraductal thrush. it is so painful to nurse him it makes me cry. 2 days ago i went back to my doctor and she gave me fluconazole 50mg once a day for 2 week he has daktarin 2% twice a day. the docter seemed to go for eczema and didnt want to give me anything. will this help or am i wasting my time and need to see another doctor?

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