​Oral Thrush

Your baby is perfect, right? Then one day, the baby yawns or cries and you see white cottony deposits on her tongue, her inner cheeks, and the roof of her mouth. Chances are you are seeing what is called oral thrush, a yeast infection commonly seen in young babies.

Why does this happen?

·      Yeast, or candida, is part of the natural flora or germs that inhabit our moist zones of the body.  Yeast is held in check by bacteria and a competent immune system.  In babies, that immune system is immature and needs time to develop. Babies are also building their own flora, and imbalances are bound to occur. 

·      Nursing moms are also a target for imbalance from all the hormonal shifts during pregnancy and childbirth.  Yeast can overgrow on the nipple, where yeast thrive on the nutrients from breast milk.  Candida can easily transfer to baby’s mouth, and back, during breast-feeding.

·      If a baby or nursing mom is on antibiotics, that state can cause an imbalance as well.

Does my baby feel any pain?

·      Babies with dense areas of yeast may be fussier, and may even struggle with sucking as a result of discomfort.  For nursing moms, cracked painful and red nipples may be a sign of candida overgrowth.

So what’s a parent to do?

Fortunately there are very effective treatments for both baby and mom. 

·      Oral antifungal agents are typically used – Nystatin is a liquid typically swished and swabbed in the mouth of the baby 4 times daily

·      Over the last several years, a medication called fluconazole (Diflucan) has come on the scene for use in babies. The advantage is it is taken orally once daily for 7-10 days.  The disadvantage – cost, as some insurers don’t cover it.

·      Nursing moms should be treated with topical Nystatin to avoid passing the infection back and forth repeatedly

·      Baby bottle nipples and pacifiers should be boiled each night and left out to dry before re-use.

For a link to the Hallmark Home & Family segment that featured this topic go to:

Photo courtesy of: "Thrush2010" by James Heilman, MD - Own work.