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How To Treat Thrush Quickly While Breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding may already be difficult and now you’re having sharp pain and itchy nipples. Thrush and breastfeeding is a combination you don’t want. Find out how to quickly get rid of it.

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You know that friend you have that pops up unannounced? The one that doesn’t take the hint when you mention it’s nap time for the fourth time.

We’ll call that friend thrush.

It shows up unannounced and can be stubborn as hell to go away.

If you’ve been slaying breastfeeding like Queen Bey slayed Coachella, and now your nipples look like a bright red bullseye, girlfriend there’s a problem!

But what the heck is thrush?! And how the heck do you get rid of it?

Since you’re here I’m assuming you’re either having symptoms or have already been told you have thrush.

When I had it my boobs felt like a million tiny pieces of glass were lollygagging their way from my chest to my nipples.

That happened every single time my daughter would nurse. Super painful!

Did you know thrush can pass from your nipples and infect your milk ducts? Me neither!

And, of course, that’s what happened to me because I waited too late to start treatment.

Because I don’t want that to happen to you, I’ll tell you everything I know about thrush and how you two can become old pals who never cross paths again.

What we’re gonna talk about:

  • What is thrush?
  • How do you get thrush?
  • Signs & symptoms
  • Treatment options
    • Nystatin
    • Grapefruit seed extract
    • Gentian violet
    • Fluconazole
    • All purpose nipple ointment
  • Hygiene
  • Diaper rash
  • Breastfeeding

What is thrush?

Thrush is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of yeast.

Have you ever had a vaginal yeast infection? Super irritating, I know.

This is the same thing.

Yeast is normally found in the body so it’s not something that’s life-threatening.

Typically, it’s kept under control by bacteria in your body. But for some reason, the yeast decided to grow like vines on an old home and throw your body out of whack.

How do you get thrush?

If you had a c-section as I did, it’s possible you received antibiotics through your IV to prevent infection. That pesky antibiotic comes through wilder than a toddler running from the Easter bunny.

It not only kills the bad bacteria but the good bacteria as well.

We need good bacteria! That’s what’s standing between you and a raging itch that makes you want to claw your nipples off.

Your baby can also give the yeast to you through breastfeeding.

So you two are passing the yeast back and forth like an invigorating game of ping pong.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms for baby:

  • White patches in the mouth which may be seen on the tongue, cheeks, roof of the mouth, or the gums
  • Fussy while nursing or sucking
  • Refusing to eat
  • Red, bumpy diaper rash
  • Clicking sound while nursing

Thrush is often overlooked as milk tongue by medical professionals. This is what happened to us for the first 2 months.

Luckily, being a nurse and seeing thrush before, I had an idea it was more than just milk tongue.

Thrush doesn’t easily wipe off the tongue as milk does. If it does wipe off, their tongue will be red and raw underneath the white patches.

To test this theory, I grabbed a washcloth and dampened it with water. I gently rubbed her tongue and nothing came off. I knew then it was thrush.

Symptoms for mom:

  • Itchy or burning nipples
  • Deep shooting or stabbing breast pain that you may also feel in your back or armpit
  • Cracked nipples
  • Nipples that are bright red, shiny, or flaky, and may have blisters
baby with oral thrush
Thrush can be a thick white patch or small white patches

How do you get rid of thrush?

First, you need to be seen by your doctor and your baby should be seen by their pediatrician.

You may get lucky and one doctor or lactation consultant can prescribe medication for both of you.

If it is thrush they’ll prescribe both of you medication. Both you and your baby need to be treated at the same time even if one of you have no symptoms.

It’s also important to continue the entire course of medication.

If you stop taking your medicine because your symptoms are gone it can come right back.

I’ll walk you through all of the treatments we tried before being successful.


This is typically the first medication prescribed. It comes in multiple forms such as liquid, powder or cream.

We started out with a prescription for liquid Nystatin. I was to apply 2 milliliters to her mouth 4 times a day by putting 1 milliliter in each cheek with the syringe.

When I made it back home and looked on the internet, I saw other moms were advised to apply it with a Q-tip and swab it around their baby’s mouth.

That sounded better to me so that’s what I did.

I swabbed the Nystatin around her mouth 4 times a day after nursing with a Q-tip for 10 days.

During this time I was also treating myself as prescribed by my doctor with the same liquid Nystatin.

She instructed me to apply it to my nipples 4 times a day as well after feedings.

Even though Nystatin is commonly prescribed it isn’t very effective.

Unfortunately, after 10 days we still had all of our same symptoms. The Nystatin didn’t work for us.

GrapeFRUIT seed extract

This is a natural option that doesn’t require a prescription. Grapefruit seed extract can be found at natural food stores like Whole Foods or ordered online.

The active ingredient has to be Citricidal for it to be effective against thrush. It’s also preferred to use distilled water because it has less contamination.

Mix 10 drops of GSE with 30mL (1 ounce) of distilled water. Apply it to your nipples after each nursing session and swabbed your baby’s mouth before each nursing session.

It has a nasty taste that’s why you swab their mouth before nursing to wash the nastiness away.

The GSE does have a tendency to dry the skin. To solve this problem you can apply coconut oil to both nipples and areolas after the GSE has dried.

Coconut oil is an antifungal and antibacterial so it’s safe if you nurse your baby before it’s completely absorbed. Make sure the coconut oil is unrefined and organic which is its most natural form.

After only 2 days my symptoms had improved so much! Unfortunately, I stopped using it once I felt better and my symptoms came right back.  

Gentian Violet 1%

This is an old treatment option that still remains effective. It is hard to find so call before you run out to pick up a bottle from a pharmacy.

I was able to find the last bottle at a CVS pharmacy.

It is very important to make sure that it’s the 1% solution. Gentian violet is commonly sold in the US as a 2% solution which is too strong and can cause sores in the mouth.

A recent study in Australia linked it to mouth cancer, but many health professionals still recommend it for short term (less than 4 days) use because it is so effective.  

It also contains a small amount of alcohol. But you use such a small amount that the alcohol is insignificant.

This is very messy! It will stain any and everything it touches.

Before applying, wear old clothes that you don’t mind being stained. Use a cotton ball to dab some on both nipples and part of the areola that goes in your baby’s mouth.

Apply coconut oil to their face before feeding them. That way it won’t stain their face as much.

Next, feed them after the gentian violet has dried for a minute. It will coat their mouth without you having to swab it.

We did this twice a day for 4 days, once in the morning and again at bedtime.

Gentian violet didn’t work for us either.

That’s because the thrush had already moved from my nipples and infected my milk ducts.

Once that happens you have to treat it from the inside.

After applying gentian violet using coconut oil


This is the most effective prescription treatment.

It is recommended to take 2 tablets (400 mg) the first day and 1 tablet (200 mg) for the remainder of the 2 weeks.

Most times both you and your baby will take fluconazole together if the Nystatin wasn’t effective.

My daughter was prescribed a Fluconazole liquid that I was to swab in her mouth. Her treatment was once a day instead of 4 times a day with the Nystatin.

You should also still be treating your nipples while taking Fluconazole.

I applied Clotrimazole to my nipples after every feeding. As long as it’s dry before the next nursing session you don’t have to worry about wiping it off.

An alternative to Clotrimazole would be Dr. Jack Newman’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment. It’s a prescription that helps heal sore nipples and fight infections.

After taking Fluconazole for 3 weeks the thrush was finally out of our household.


To keep from reinfecting yourself and your baby you should wash everything that comes in contact with your breast, milk, or your baby’s mouth.

Vinegar or Grapefruit seed extract are great natural options.

Change your breast pads frequently. Yeast loves warm, moist, dark areas.

Disposable breast pads are also a great option. 

Sanitize baby items daily and breast pump parts. Do this for the entire course of treatment to be safe.

Use a clean towel each time you take a bath or shower. And wash your hands and your baby’s hands frequently.

Diaper rash

A yeast diaper rash can be hard to get rid of. Signs of a yeast diaper rash include:

  • Dark red and slightly raised border
  • Small red bumps or pimples
  • Not cured after 3 days of diaper rash treatment
  • Rash may be in skin folds and up to lower stomach

I used this to get rid of my daughter’s yeast diaper rash. Avoid using breast milk on a yeast diaper rash because yeast loves sugar.

You can also try applying Monistat cream or Clotrimazole at each diaper change.

Letting your baby’s bottom air out is great as well.

We had leftover puppy pads from potty training our Yorkie so we placed one on her play mat and let her lay their diaper free for about 15 minutes a day.

Can you still breastfeed?

Yes! Thrush is very painful, but try to keep breastfeeding. You can even pump if that will be less painful for you.

Don’t worry about giving it to your baby because chances are they’ve already been exposed even if they aren’t showing any symptoms.

During treatment, it is completely safe to keep breastfeeding your baby. If you’re pumping remember to sanitize all of your pump parts once a day that come into contact with milk.  

If the sun is out where you live, try to expose your nipples to sunlight if you won’t get in trouble for indecent exposure.

My daughter and I were also taking a probiotic during this time as well. She used Mommy’s bliss probiotics and I used this one.

What about frozen breast milk?

Research has shown that freezing does not kill yeast it only deactivates it. If you’re building a freezer stash you may want to stop collecting milk until treatment is finished.

Write a huge “T” on the bag if it was collected while you have thrush.

Scalding may kill the yeast but research hasn’t confirmed that.

Another possible option is to dilute pumped thrush milk with freshly pumped breast milk. You can easily do this by catching some milk in your Haakaa and mixing it with unthawed breast milk.

Whatever you decide don’t throw away your milk!

Famous last words…

I know this is a frustrating time for both of you. But once you get through this battle you’ll feel so amazing you overcame such a huge hurdle.

If you feel like your healthcare provider isn’t taking your concerns seriously go to someone else.

Don’t let the pain force you to stop your breastfeeding journey before you’re ready to.

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