Taking care of a newborn is hard enough without having to contend with thrush! Whether you experience itching, soreness while nursing, or even stabbing pains deep within your breast ducts, breastfeeding thrush can be difficult, to say the least. Sometimes your baby may have symptoms and sometimes not. When your baby has white patches of yeast in her mouth, she may also be unusually fussy, making life even harder for a breastfeeding mom.
If you or your baby have breastfeeding thrush, you may be wondering what caused it in the first place. If you have thrush it’s usually a sign that something’s more deeply out of balance in your body. It means you need to bring things back into balance so you (or your baby) don’t develop a more severe health problem than just thrush.
The yeast candida albicans is present everywhere; it’s naturally occurring on your skin, in your digestive tract; it can even be found in the air! So it’s not the yeast that’s the problem, it’s the yeast overgrowth that’s causing the problem. Everyone has some yeast in their body, but some people develop symptoms of thrush and others don’t. The difference is found in the conditions of your body (and your baby’s body) and your immune system.
When your body’s natural yeast defenses are down, the yeast can start to grow out of control. It’s also more likely to be passed on to your baby, whose own immune system is just barely developed. Here are some of the factors that predispose you to breastfeeding thrush:
Antibiotics: Antibiotic use during pregnancy or labor is a proven risk factor for breastfeeding thrush. Even if you DON’T develop thrush right away, without the right precautions even one-time antibiotic use can lead to serious yeast overgrowth months or even years down the line. Antibiotics take down your body’s natural yeast defenses.
Surgery: With c-sections more common than ever (as many as 1 in 3 first time moms undergo c-section!), there’s a great likelihood of experiencing two major risk factors for thrush: surgery and antibiotics. Surgery puts your immune system under tremendous stress. With your immune system down, it’s easier for yeast cells to invade and take hold.
Steroid Use: Steroids work by suppressing your immune system, so if you’ve taken them or are taking them, they can be a major factor in the development of thrush.
Birth Control Pills: If you just had a baby, it’s probably safe to say you are not quite ready to have another one! However, if you’re experiencing thrush, it’s better to choose another method of birth control. Birth control pills disrupt your natural hormonal balance in a way that fosters yeast overgrowth.
Weakened Immunity: Pregnancy and childbirth are quite taxing on your body and this makes your more vulnerable to all kinds of health problems, including yeast/thrush overgrowth. It’s so important as a new mom to try to take good care of yourself; eat healthy, freshly prepared food, rest and enjoy your new baby as much as you can. Let the housework pile up; you can always get to it later.
Prematurity: Premature babies’ immune systems are not developed; they are also likely to have experienced other thrush risk factors, such as antibiotic or steroid exposure, etc. This makes premature babies more vulnerable to thrush. If you’re breastfeeding and your preemie develops thrush, he or she may also pass it on to you.
Once you have thrush, it’s important to take care of it thoroughly so that it doesn’t become a source of ongoing health problems. Yeast overgrowth has been linked with many health conditions, including asthma, allergies, arthritis, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and other serious conditions. If your baby has thrush, without the right treatment he or she could also become subject to yeast-related health problems months, or even years down the line.
Don’t let thrush get you down! Take action and you’ll not only experience relief from thrush, you’ll find renewed energy, health and strength.