Thrush or candidiasis is an infection caused by naturally occurring yeast that lives in the mucus membranes of the gastro-intestinal tract, genito-urinary tract & the skin.

Thrush infections of the nipple and/or breast can be extremely painful and common causes include:

  • nipple trauma from poor attachment
  • antibiotic therapy in the postnatal period
  • higher in gestational diabetics
  • infants that have oral thrush and/or thrush on infant’s bottom

The pain can be described as burning, itching or stinging on the nipple, with breast pain described as shooting, stabbing or a deep ache that radiates through the breast.

The pain occurs after the feed and in between feeds, NOT with the feed.

Thrush pain can often be confused and diagnosed as if the baby is not latched to the breast correctly, therefore there is a need for professional help to exclude an attachment problem with your breastfeeding.

Good hand hygiene is important to prevent thrush occurring. Proper washing of hands after every nappy change dramatically decreases contamination from soiled nappies to the breasts and nipples.

The treatment on thrush varies depending on the severity of pain but includes topical antifungal gels and creams to both mum and baby. It may also be necessary for mum to take anti fungal tablets to clear the thrush from deep inside the breast(s).

It is also helpful to modify mum’s diet especially if subsequent cases of the infection occur and this includes reducing refined sugars, alcohol, dried fruits, peanuts, cantaloupe, grapes, fruit juice and Vegemite. Lactobacillus acidophilus can be added to mum’s diet to assist with preventing further thrush infections.

If you suspect that either you or your baby has thrush you should make an appointment with your doctor, see the Maternal and Child Health Nurse or call the St Vincent’s Private Hospital Breastfeeding Clinic (for patients that delivered their baby at the hospital).


This post has been written by Liz Price, Lactation Consultant and Midwife, St Vincent’s Private Hosptial Melbourne,