Oral thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth caused by the Candida albicans fungus. Sounds scary, right? You probably know it by its more common, less scary name – a yeast infection. Since thrush loves to take up residence in the mouths of infants, we'd like to arm you with some knowledge to prevent it from ever arriving. Let's start with something that might surprise you. Did you know one of the most common transmission methods occurs during feeding time?
Unfortunately, it's true. Whether bottle or breast-feeding, because Candida albicans thrives on milk, the method of delivery doesn't really matter much. Either way, your child could end up with oral thrush. What's even more unfortunate is that because a baby's immune system is still developing, and women often wrestle with yeast infections themselves, a back'n'forth cycle of transmission often occurs. It's for this reason doctors typically recommend treating both the mother and the child if one of them exhibits symptoms of a yeast infection. Let's examine a few ways to stay ahead of this childhood nuisance.
- Maintain cleanliness: Your best defense when it comes to avoiding oral thrush is to keep feeding implements as clean as possible. While it might not seem to be a big concern to go without cleaning a bottle that has been used only an hour earlier, yeast can indeed form on the nipple of a bottle within that timeframe. Wash bottle nipples and pacifiers daily, and store bottles in the refrigerator when not in use to prevent yeast growth.
- Be aware of your own health: As previously mentioned, because a mother can transmit a yeast infection to her child via breastfeeding, it's important to look out for symptoms of the infection in your own body. Also, red, cracked, or sore nipples could indicate your baby has passed thrush onto you as well, so alert your doctor if this is ever the case. Additionally, should a mother have a vaginal yeast infection, and is in the last three months of pregnancy, your doctor may recommend treating the infection prior to birth to decrease the risk of the newborn developing thrush during delivery.
- Understand the role of antibiotics: Because antibiotics disrupt the natural balance of micro-organisms that protect a baby from getting thrush in the first place, a baby taking antibiotics for any other sort of infection could make them prone to developing thrush as a result. Breastfeeding during this time can help because breast milk delivers supportive antibodies to help develop a child's immune system, and rinsing your baby’s mouth with some water after delivering antibiotics can help reduce the chances of the antibiotic having an acute adverse effect in the oral cavity.