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Are you struggling with thrush during breastfeeding?

Nipple thrush is also called a yeast infection. Yeast infections are a common problem for nursing moms. It is one of the causes of nipple pain while breastfeeding.

Painful breastfeeding is one of the most common reasons moms give for weaning early (Source).  If feeding your baby is painful due to thrush, you will want to find a fast and effective treatment so you can get relief and get back to enjoying nursing.

Thrush and yeast both refer to an infection caused by the fungus Candida Albicans. I will be using these two terms interchangeably.


Yeast grows in our bodies normally. It becomes a problem when it overgrows. Overgrowth of yeast causes itching and pain.

Yeast overgrowth causes problems with breastfeeding when it occurs in specific areas.

  • Breastfeeding mom’s Nipples
  • Milk Ducts in the breast

Baby’s Mouth

baby sticking out his tongue


  • Your nipples might burn or sting.
  • You may have shooting, stabbing pains from your nipples through your breasts.


Your nipples may be bright pink. They may be shiny or have a flaky appearance. The nipple may have a white area on it (but look different than a bleb).

Nipples can also look perfectly normal during a yeast infection.

Moms have told me how incredibly frustrating it was to have their health care provider look at their breasts and say, “It doesn’t look like yeast to me.”

A yeast infection can be challenging to diagnose. If the nipples look normal, then it is essential to rule out other possible causes of pain.

frustrated woman grabbing herr head


A common question moms with a nipple yeast infection have is, “Can you give your baby thrush while breastfeeding?”

Yes, thrush is contagious. Not only can you give it to your baby. If your baby has thrush, he can give it to you.


Your baby can have thrush in his mouth. Babies can also have thrush in their diaper area. The diaper area will have a red, raised rash.

If you Google nipple, oral, or diaper thrush and look at the images, you’ll get lots of examples. Be forewarned though, some of the diaper thrush pictures made even this nurse cringe.

I never recommend a mom try to diagnose her baby’s rashes. If your little one has a rash, I encourage you to take him to his health care provider.

Thrush in the mouth will be white patches on the cheeks or palate and a white tongue

Having a whitish tongue isn’t uncommon in babies who only drink milk. I call it milk tongue, which is different than thrush.  With thrush, there will usually be white patches in places other than his tongue. The white patches won’t wipe away.

The worst case of thrush in a baby’s mouth that I ever saw looked like a little white rug on the baby’s tongue.

When a baby has oral thrush they are often fussy because it can cause discomfort for them.

mother holding crying baby


Certain things can increase your risk of getting a yeast infection.

  • Moms who have a history of repeated vaginal yeast infections have a higher chance of getting a yeast infection in their nipples.
  • As mentioned before, you and your baby can give each other thrush. For this reason, many lactation consultants recommend treating both mom and baby simultaneously, even if only one of you has a diagnosed case. Treating both mom and baby is recommended even when one of them has no symptoms.
  • Taking antibiotics put a mom at higher risk of developing a yeast infection.
  • Nipples that are kept in a warm, wet environment are more likely to become overgorrwn with yeast. Think of a milk-soaked bra pad. Yeast loves sugar, and there is lots of sugar in breastmilk.
  • Diabetic moms have a higher incidence of yeast infections. This is due to high blood sugar levels (Source).
  • A diet high in sugars puts a mom who is prone to yeast infections at higher risk.


Gentian Violet Treatment For Thrush

Gentian Violet is a purple dye that is an antifungal and can kill bacteria. Gentian Violet can often provide a full cure for nipple thrush.

It’s available without a prescription. However, it may be kept behind the counter. You’ll have to ask for it.

Gentian Violet is hard to find where I live. For that reason, I recommend you call the store or pharmacy first to see if they carry it. This will save you a wasted trip or from driving all over.

Gentian Violet Precautions

  • Be sure to ask for a 0.5% – 1% strength. It is easier to find 2% preparations, but that would be too strong to put on your nipples. It could cause the skin to break down. You don’t want the cure to be worse than the problem.

You can order Gentian Violet from Amazon if you are unable to find it close by.

Gentian Violet is messy and stains everything it comes in contact with, including your baby’s mouth. It will go away, but it will look like you’ve been feeding him blueberry pie. If someone asks why his mouth looks like that, say, “I’m embarrassed to admit it, but he ate our Smurf.” Then look guilty and say, “Is that bad?”

Smurf toy
  • Use disposable bra pads to protect your clothing. Lansinoh bra pads are highly rated on Amazon. They are nice because they are contoured and have adhesive strips to help keep them in place.
  • Apply the Gentian Violet once a day and no more.
  • Use it for no longer than seven days. Gentian Violet is not the type of stuff where if some is good, then more is better. Too much can break down the tissue, and then you have a whole new problem.

Antifungal Ointment Treatments For Thrush

  • Nystatin is a prescription treatment that is frequently used.
    • It is available as an ointment for mom and oral drops for baby.
    • It can cure a yeast infection but seems to work about as often as it doesn’t (Source).
  • Miconazole is an effective antifungal available with a prescription.

Oral Medications Used to Treat Yeast Infections

If topical treatments don’t work, Diflucan, (generic name fluconazole), should do the trick. Diflucan is an antifungal medication that is taken orally.  It requires a prescription from your healthcare provider. It is usually effective if given in the proper dosage and duration for this type of yeast. It requires a higher loading dose than a vaginal yeast infection does, and you have to take it for a more extended period of time.

While not a cure, Probiotics can help restore the normal balance of yeast in the body (Source). 

I use Jarrow ProbioticsThey do not require refrigeration.

Vinegar Treatment For Yeast

Vinegar is a natural remedy for thrush (Source).

  • Add one tablespoon of vinegar to one cup of water.
  • Soak cotton balls in the solution and apply the cotton balls to your nipples for twenty minutes.
  • Do this four times a day.

bottle of white vinegar


There are other medical conditions that cause nipple pain. They can lead to a  mistaken diagnosis of a yeast infection.


It will help get rid of the yeast if you sanitize anything that comes in contact with your baby’s mouth or your breasts every 24 hours.

  • Bottles, nipples, and pacifiers.
  • If your baby is older and putting toys or teethers in their mouth, those count too
  • Pump parts
  • Bras, tank tops or anything that milk has leaked on to
  • During a yeast infection I recommend disposable nursing pads . Change them frequently.
    • If you absolutely hate disposable pads, just make sure that you change the cloth pads often. Wash them along with the bras and any other clothing in hot water before reusing.
    • Don’t wear a bra or tank top for any longer than one day.
    • If you leak a lot when you sleep put a towel on top of your bed sheet. Wash that in hot water after 24 hours.
    • Good handwashing!
    • It is not recommended that you freeze any breast milk that you might collect during a yeast infection. If you pump make sure you use up any milk within 24 hours.
      • While there has never been a documented case of yeast causing an infection this way, freezing does not kill yeast.

woman washing hands in a sink


There is no doubt that a case of thrush when you are breastfeeding can be miserable. But like most breastfeeding problems, it is temporary. With proper treatment for a yeast infection you should be back to a happy breastfeeding experience quickly!


  1. I’ve been dealing with thrush for a week now. The nipple and areolas are dark red and skin is peeling , is this normal? I’m taking nystatin cream but don’t see any improvement. If there anything else I can do???

  2. The redness and peeling is a symptom of thrush. Nystatin is not the most effective treatment. Have you tried the Gentian Violet?

  3. I’m on my third round of diflucan and desperate! Baby never had thrush in mouth, but did have a diaper rash. I’ve tried gentian violet for three days now.. will keep going. I’ve tried prescription ntifingal, APNO, washing everything in hot water. I’m at a loss! My main symptom now is very red nipples, but pain and itching has thankfully subsided. I’m starting to feel like I’ll always be on diflucan while I breastfeed. Unless this is something else?!

  4. You can do the gentian violet for one week, but only apply it once a day. Too much can actually irritate the nipples. And no stronger than 1% of the Gentian Violet. If your nipples are still red after a week I would recommend having a dermatologist take a look at them. At least the pain and itching has stopped. That’s progress.

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