One day, as your baby is yawning or crying, you may notice white patches on the inside of his mouth. Mothers often think these spots are residue from the last feeding and try to wipe them away. If the spots cannot be easily removed, your baby may be suffering from the oral yeast infection known as thrush.
This ailment is quite common in young babies. The yeast cell, candida albicans, loves the warm, wet, sugar-rich environment of babies’ mouths. Patches of thrush appear as creamy, white, milk-like blotches on the tongue, gums, inner cheeks, or tonsils of the baby.
A child who was born to a mother suffering from a vaginal yeast infection may have contracted the illness on his journey down the birth canal.
Babies who have taken an antibiotic or who have been exposed to an antibiotic in breast milk may contract the disease. Antibiotics kill the helpful bacteria which keep yeast levels inside the mouth in the right balance.
Also at increased risk for thrush are infants born to a diabetic mother, those who have an oral birth defect, such as cleft tongue or palate, or a breastfed child whose mother has a thrush rash around her nipples. This should be treated by a physician because the child and mother can keep reinfecting each other until both are treated and cured.
The first sign of thrush in an infant is the appearance or white patches which resemble milk or cottage cheese on the child’s tongue, inner cheeks, gums, the roof of his mouth, or on his tonsils. These lesions cannot be rubbed off easily. It they are removed, they will leave a sore, raw, inflamed area which may bleed slightly.
The baby may be fussier than normal, especially when he’s trying to eat, sucking on a pacifier, or trying to settle down to sleep.
There may be a red, shiny rash around the diaper area or in the creases around the baby’s neck or legs.
A baby who has only the white thrush patches in his mouth with no other symptoms, may heal in a few weeks without medical help. However, if he has difficulty eating or sleeping, he should be taken to see a paediatrician. A fungal medication can be painted inside the baby’s mouth which will speed the healing process.
A baby breastfed can pass thrush on to its mother, so if a nursing mom gets a sore, red rash around her nipples, it’s important to seek treatment for both mother and baby at the same time. Otherwise, they may pass the infection back and forth indefinitely.
Thrush is a disease quite common in babies and toddlers and it is not usually considered serious. However, when confronting this or other problems and difficulties in your baby’s first years, your doctor is your best friend and most capable advisor.
It’s a Mom’s World
Thrush in Infants
Accessed November 27, 2010