Thrush: Can a newborn pick up oral thrush during the birth process?

My nephew is only a few weeks old and has thrush. His mother is breastfeeding and wonders if it is okay to continue to do this while he is infected. Can a woman with a yeast infection give a baby thrush by breastfeeding?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

When a baby develops oral thrush this early on, there's a very good chance he picked it up during the birth process. Candida, a fungal organism, and the most common cause of vaginitis, is more common in women during pregnancy. It has been found that 20 percent of healthy, non-pregnant women have vaginal candida, and significantly more would test positive during pregnancy (Odds 1988). Since not all women show symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection, many no doubt are carrying candida to their births. If the baby picked up oral thrush during his birth, he may easily transmit it to his mother through breastfeeding, especially if her nipples have suffered any trauma.

Breastfeeding need not be interrupted if either mom or baby has been diagnosed with a yeast infection. If the mother has nipple or breast candidiasis, or the baby has oral thrush, it is very important for both mom and baby to be treated at the same time (Lawrence 1994). Treatment with an antifungal needs to continue for one to two weeks once the symptoms have cleared (Amir, Hoover and Mulford 1995).

A mother with a yeast infection can give her baby thrush, if she is not careful about her hygiene. Thrush is easily transmitted from one family member to another. If a mother has a vaginal yeast infection and is being treated with an antifungal, it is very important that she wash her hands frequently with hot, soapy water, especially after visits to the bathroom, after diaper changes, and before breastfeeding or pumping. She needs to be on the lookout for any symptoms of nipple thrush, such as suddenly sore nipples once breastfeeding is well established. Also check the baby's mouth regularly for white plaques that can not be easily removed. If a mother suspects that she or her baby have developed nipple or oral thrush, it is important that they be seen by their Health Care Provider so it can be properly treated. Best wishes!

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