The presence of thrush in a baby’s mouth can be painful for the baby and very upsetting for parents. Babies who are bottle-fed are more likely to develop thrush than those who are exclusively breastfeed. However, steps can be taken to lessen the risk of thrush developing, and treatment is quite easy.
Thrush, or oral pseudomembranous candidiasis, is a superficial yeast infection that is found in about 5% of healthy newborns. Babies usually acquire the yeast from their mothers during passage through the birth canal. You can tell whether or not your child has thrush by looking out for the telltale white patches that can be found of the inside of the cheeks, lips, palate and tongue. Many mothers who bottle-feed their baby often mistake milk residue found on the tongue for thrush. If the tongue is uniformly white, this isn’t thrush. The patches of thrush are often described as curd-like. Unlike milk residue, they adhere to the underlying tissue. You can also, test for thrush, by gently touching a patch with a gauze-covered finger. If it is thrush, it probably won’t come off very easily, but if it does, you’ll find a raw, red area underneath that may bleed. Thrush lesions can be painful and when bottle-fed a child can become fussy and squirm.
Why are bottle-fed babies more susceptible to thrush?
Many babies have thrush, but it is a self-limited condition; it goes away all by itself, without anyone ever knowing the baby had thrush in the first place. However, certain changes in baby or its environment can cause the thrush to be exacerbated. Antibiotics or stress can be to blame. Bottle-feeding often causes thrush because the lining of the mouth becomes abraded with prolonged sucking, such as babies who sleep with a bottle or pacifier – babies who are breastfed don’t go to sleep at night still sucking at their mother’s breast, unfortunately, many bottle-fed babies do go to sleep sucking on a bottle. Also, dirty nipples and pacifiers can harbour the yeast infection.
How to treat thrush?
First off, prevention is better than cure. Babies should not be put to bed while still sucking the nipple of a bottle. Avoid letting your child suck on a pacifier for long periods of time. Make sure all nipples and pacifiers are washed thoroughly and sterilized.
In most case thrush will disappear all by itself and the only treatment required is to alleviate oral discomfort or to treat (or prevent) painful yeast diaper rashes. You can use an antifungal medicine such as Nystatin suspension. This can be applied, directly to the plaques with a cotton-tipped applicator, or given orally 1-2ml four times daily. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. An old-fashioned, and still affective treatment of baby thrush is baking soda. Use a cotton-tipped bud dipped into a mixture of one-fourth teaspoon of baking soda and one or two drops of mild liquid detergent (without ammonia or bleach) mixed in a glass of warm water. Apply the mixture gently to the affected areas.
If symptoms persist or you have any concerns, seek medical help.
Babies who fuss during bottle-feeding, can do so for many reasons. If your baby is fussy when being fed formula, it’s worth checking to see if your child has thrush. If your child does have thrush, you need not change milk formula. Just apply a treatment as described above and the thrush should disappear in a matter of weeks.