Having your baby pull away while feeding can feel very stressful. You may worry that she is not getting enough to eat, or even feel rejected, or as if you are doing something wrong. Frequent pulling away can result in shorter feeding times, causing babies to wake often in the night or increase fussiness during the day. Pulling away can even cause some parents to think that their babies are no longer interested in breastfeeding, as if they are weaning themselves. While this may occasionally be true, there are many other reasons your baby might be fussing or pulling away during feeding. Your baby may be distracted by something as simple as fast or slow letdown, needing to be burped, or a poor latch. Teething or a stuffy nose can keep your baby from feeding as he normally would. However, a common cause of frequent pulling away while feeding which is often overlooked by first-time (or even experienced) parents is oral candida, also known as thrush.
Thrush is a term we use for candida (a type of fungus) in the mouth. This can show up as creamy white spots on the inside of your baby’s mouth. If you gently wipe at these with a cotton swab or your finger, they should come away easily, leaving a bright red spot underneath that may even bleed. Oral candida infections can be very painful, and babies with thrush will often pull away while feeding, simply due to the pain. This should resolve once your baby’s thrush is treated.
Candida in your baby’s gut.
The same candida that shows up as thrush in the mouth can get into your baby’s digestive tract and cause itching and redness in the diaper area, commonly known as diaper rash. Candida in the gut can trigger a variety of other issues for your baby, including eczema and food sensitivities. Candida is also the most common pathogen that is responsible for vaginal yeast infections, often showing up as redness and irritation of the labia or a similar creamy white vaginal discharge. Candida can easily migrate into the vagina from the GI tract, especially in infants or young children who are still in diapers.
Can I get candida from (or give it to) my baby?
Candida can also infect your nipples, and you may be passing it back and forth between yourself and your baby. This can cause itching, burning, soreness, and sensitivity in your nipples, as well as redness.
How can thrush be treated?
A common treatment for oral candida in infants is via pharmaceutical antifungals such as Nystatin. While generally considered safe, these medications may cause vomiting, diarrhea, or further irritation of your baby's mouth. There are many holistic and naturopathic options for treatment of thrush. These include homeopathy, specific probiotic strains, dietary changes, and herbal and supplemental support. Consult your naturopathic physician or other trusted health care professional if you are concerned about candida in your child.