Many women get painful nipples when they first start breastfeeding.

This can be normal until you and your baby get the hang of positioning and attachment. It takes a lot of co-ordination to wrangle a wriggling little baby onto your breast and we need to take into account that you are both still learning and will make mistakes as you go.

But what happens when painful nipples get worse instead of better?

What if they become so excruciating and burn and sting for hours afterwards and you cannot bear to attach your baby at all?

This is when we need to look further into the pain and consider that your nipples or breasts may have a thrush infection. Thrush takes a few weeks to set in and can enter the body via cracks in the nipples, so it’s not something mums generally experience in the early days of breastfeeding.

Pain from thrush generally occurs after and between feeds and the pain can be a burning, throbbing or stabbing pain. Women who have been on antibiotics are more susceptible, as are women with a history of vaginal thrush.

Treating Thrush

To treat thrush, there are topical creams or gels to apply to the nipples after feeds and in more severe cases, tablets to take. It’s very important to also treat your baby’s mouth for oral thrush at the same time, even if he has no symptoms, as babies can spread thrush from breast to breast while they are breastfeeding.

If you think you may have breast or nipple thrush, talk to your GP, maternal & child health nurse or lactation consultant. If your baby was born at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne, you can book a consult with one of our lactation consultants to help you seek appropriate treatment.