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All You Need To Know About Nipple Thrush

Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Sky Abundo · Updated May 24, 2021

All You Need To Know About Nipple Thrush

What is nipple thrush?

What exactly is nipple thrush and what causes nipple thrush? Thrush is a fungal infection, caused by the yeast Candida albicans that occurs in the breast tissue, nipples, mouth, or throat.

Thrush is more commonly observed in infants and those with weakened immune systems. While healthy people are at less risk of contracting this condition, babies and those with weaker immune systems are at risk of getting the infection and passing it on. Other times, what causes nipple thrush is unclear.

Since the infection can be passed through skin-to-skin contact, it is possible for babies to pass it on to those who breastfeed them. Breastfeeding mothers can get this infection on their nipples or breast tissue.

More commonly called nipple thrush, this infection may cause pain and discomfort for the mother. Common treatments such as antifungal drugs or nipple thrush cream can remedy the condition.

what causes nipple thrush

How common is nipple thrush?

Nipple thrush is a common breastfeeding issue. Your baby is more susceptible to getting oral thrush since his or her immune system is still developing.

This means that you can pass the infection back and forth, from the mouth to the nipples and vice versa. This requires immediate treatment of nipple thrush, for instance, by use of nipple thrush cream and other remedies.

Signs and Symptoms

Now that you know what causes nipple thrush, let’s look at its symptoms. The common symptoms of nipple thrush are:

  • Nipple pain after breastfeeding
  • Breast pain after breastfeeding
  • Pain can be described as mild or severe, and is itching, burning, or stinging  
  • Tender breasts
  • Nipple damage that is slow to heal
  • Areola may be dry or flaky
  • Nipples may appear to be bright pink

Why Does Nipple Itching Happen While Breastfeeding?

Nipple thrush can also cause symptoms that are more uncommon. This can be:

  • White rash 

It is important to also observe signs of oral thrush in your baby’s mouth. 

Symptoms of oral thrush include:

  • Creamy white spots or patches in the tongue, gums, roof of mouth, or inside of cheeks that can’t be wiped off
  • Unsettled behavior during feeding
  • White film on the lips

While uncommon, a diaper rash that will not clear can also be observed in some babies who have thrush.

In the event you have nipple thrush, consider using nipple thrush cream.

When should I see my doctor?

If your child develops white lesions in the mouth, it may be prudent to consult with your doctor or dentist. 

If you notice and suspect that you might have nipple thrush, consult with your doctor for treatment. Treatment for nipple thrush includes nipple thrush cream and other medications.

Causes and Risk Factors

What causes nipple thrush?

What causes nipple thrush is an infection from the fungus, Candida albicans. Normally, we all carry a small amount of this fungus. Our immune systems and good bacteria can usually keep this bacteria at bay and prevent it from causing an infection.

However, certain conditions can lead to the bacteria growing out of control and can sometimes prove too much to handle for our immune systems.

Illness, stress, medications or other external factors can contribute to the fungus growing out of control. 

Fungi like Candida thrive in warm and moist environments. As such, breastfeeding is a perfect place for them to grow and can lead to infection for you and your baby.

Your baby can develop the thrush orally, while you can develop the thrush in your nipples. While breastfeeding, you or your baby can infect each other.

This is why it is recommended that you and your baby be treated at the same time to prevent an exchange of infections.

Treatment may include the use of nipple thrush cream.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for nipple thrush?

There are many risk factors for nipple thrush, here are some of them:

  • Weakened immunity
  • Vaginal yeast infections (thrush and vaginal yeast infection are caused by Candida albicans)
  • Medications

Diagnosis and Treatment

How is nipple thrush diagnosed?

Your doctor may check your breasts and nipples for symptoms. Your doctor may also observe your baby if he or she has developed any signs of oral thrush, as what causes nipple thrush may infect their mouth area.

Some possible tests include:

  • Mouth examination
  • Swabs from your baby’s mouth
  • Swabs from your nipples
  • Blood test (if necessary)

How is nipple thrush treated?

Now that you know what causes nipple thrush and how it is diagnosed, you should know how it is treated. Medication like nipple thrush cream may be prescribed by your doctor to treat the condition.

If thrush has been found in your baby, your doctor might suggest treating that in conjunction with your treatment. 

Treatment besides nipple thrush cream may include:

  • Oral gel or drops
  • Anti-fungal medicine
  • Treatment of any other site of infection (vagina, diaper rash, or feet)

Lifestyle Changes & Home Remedies

Nipple thrush can be prevented by controlling what causes nipple thrush (the bacteria). Here are some possible lifestyle changes and home remedies to help manage nipple thrush, besides the use of nipple thrush cream:

  • Frequently change breast pads
  • Clean teats and pacifiers after use with boiling water for five minutes
  • Regularly replace teats and pacifiers every week if possible
  • Practice good hygiene to prevent spreading thrush
  • Wash hands before and after diaper changes
  • Wash towels, bras, cloths, nursing pads and dry outside
  • Immediately treat vaginal infections

Now that you know what is nipple thrush, what causes nipple thrush, as well as its signs and symptoms, you are better equipped to deal with it if it happens to you. If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution.

Learn more about baby care and breastfeeding, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Sky Abundo · Updated May 24, 2021

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