Thrush in infants is characterized by white patches, often curdlike, in the baby's mouth. Painful sores may develop under the white patches, causing the baby to be fussy during feeding. Sometimes thrush causes a red rash in the diaper area. Thrush rash has defined edges and sometimes has red spots near the edges. A breast-feeding mother with thrush may experience sore nipples with or without a rash. The yeast can be passed back and forth between baby and mother, so both must be treated.
Thrush is caused by an overabundance of candida yeast. The yeast is normally found in the intestines, where it aids in digestion. A baby's immune system may not be developed enough to control an overabundance of candida, so an overgrowth may occasionally appear as thrush.
An illness or antibiotics also may compromise the baby's immune system, making it easier for the yeast to grow out of control. Bottle-fed babies or babies who suck on pacifiers for prolonged periods may have areas of abrasion in their mouths that harbor the yeast, too. Thrush is more common in bottle-fed babies than breast-fed babies.
Wash everything that comes in contact with the infant's mouth or mother's breast and be diligent about good hygiene. Boil and sterilize all bottles and nipples, pacifiers and toys. Use the hottest water available and add 1 cup of vinegar to the final rinse when laundering breast pads, burping cloths, bras and baby's laundry. Sunlight kills candida, so hang laundry outdoors to dry if possible. Continue these practices to help prevent a recurrence.
A high-carbohydrate diet, including starches, sugars and dairy, provides an environment for candida to thrive. Breast-feeding mothers can make dietary changes to limit starches, sugars and dairy to regulate the yeast in their systems. Yogurt with live cultures and dairy products with acidophilus are exceptions. They should be included because acidophilus will fight yeast overgrowth and restore the intestinal balance.
Grapefruit seed extract is a natural antifungal. Use it in liquid form. It should not be used full strength, but should be diluted by adding five drops of grapefruit seed extract to half a cup of cooled boiled water. Keep it in two containers, and use one to wipe or swab baby's mouth after feeding and wipe mother's nipples. Use the other to wash baby's bottom at every diaper change. Make a new batch of this every day, and use it at least three or four times a day.
Make it inhospitable for yeast to grow by altering the yeast environment. Make an acid wash by adding 1 tsp. vinegar to 1/2 cup cooled boiled water. Use this to wipe baby's mouth and mother's nipples after feeding, and to wash baby's bottom when diapering. Or make an alkaline wash by adding 1 tsp. baking soda to 1/2 cup cooled boiled water and use it the same way. Choose either vinegar or baking soda and use it for at least a week. (Note: The vinegar solution may burn tender skin.)