Thrush in babies – everything you need to know

how to treat trush in babies

Thrush in babies is a common problem, and most babies will suffer from thrush somewhere along the way. It can cause a lot of discomfort, and can be difficult to get rid of.

The two most common areas in which babies get thrush are in the mouth and in the nappy area. In fact, thrush often starts in the mouth and then proceeds through the gut to the nappy area.

What is thrush?

Thrush is caused by a fungus named Candida Albicans. Candida naturally lives in our bodies, and is usually well controlled by our immune systems. But sometimes it can overgrow, leading to a thrush infection.

This especially happens after antibiotic use, as antibiotics unfortunately also kill all the good bacteria in our bodies, which usually helps to combat candida.

Luckily you can prevent and treat thrush with a few simple measures. Let’s take a closer look.

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Oral thrush occurs in baby’s mouth. It can be seen as white or yellow patches on baby’s tongue, gums, lips, inner cheeks and palate. These do not easily wipe away like milk residue, and may also bleed if you try to do so.  Baby may struggle with feeding as his mouth may be sore.

Treatment tips for oral thrush in babies:

  • You can buy an antifungal gel or liquid at the pharmacy and you should use it for at least 7 days.
  • If you cannot afford these medications you can also use gentian violet. It is messy and will stain baby’s mouth purple for a few days. It will also stain clothes. Apply it once a day to a cotton swab and dab onto the affected areas in baby’s mouth.
  • If you are breastfeeding, cut down on your sugar intake. Candida loves sugar, and can overgrow in mom and baby if you ingest too much.
  • If you are breastfeeding you would also need to apply an antifungal gel or ointment to your nipples, as you and baby can keep re-infecting each other. Thrush on the nipples is a common cause of nipple pain. Chat to your clinic sister or lactation consultant about this problem.

Properly cleaning bottles, dummies and breast pump parts

If you do not correctly wash and sterilise these items, Candida can grow in it and spread to your baby. Make sure you are getting it right:

  • Wash your hands before handling baby’s feeding equipment.
  • Wash all feeding equipment and dummies in warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly before sterilising.
  • The best ways to sterilise equipment is in a steam or in a microwave steriliser. You can also boil equipment for 10 minutes on the stovetop.
  • You can also use a sterilising solution, but you have to use it correctly. Mix sterilising solutions according to instruction, and be sure to replace it every 24 hours. You should still wash and rinse any equipment before placing it in the solution, and be sure to leave it there for an hour before use.
  • Dummies are a great source of Candida and should be replaced regularly.


You should suspect Candida if your baby struggles with a nappy rash that is not responding to the usual nappy ointments.

Recognising Candida nappy rash:

  • Bold red patches with slightly raised borders, with smaller patches that blend with the bigger ones.
  • In severe cases it may cause blisters, ulcers or sores filled with pus.
  • A candida rash can affect the whole nappy area, including the vagina and labia in girls and the scrotum and penis in boys.
  • The rash won’t respond to normal nappy ointments.

Treatment tips for nappy rash caused by thrush:

  • Get an antifungal ointment from the pharmacy and apply to affected areas three times a day. If it is a Candida rash it usually responds very quickly.
  • When changing the nappy, clean the area with cotton wool and water, then gently pat it dry and leave the buttocks open to dry completely.
  • Get a few minutes of sunshine on the area every day.
  • Use a probiotic skin spray – this can provide a permanent solution to babies suffering from repeated fungal nappy rashes.
  • See your doctor if the symptoms doesn’t start improving within 2-3 days.

Christine Klynhans is a midwife and lactation consultant with a firm believe that gentle parenting can change the world. She has worked in midwifery since competing her B.Cur nursing degree in 2004, and has a special passion for education and for writing. She currently works in a well-baby clinic and give antenatal classes and breastfeeding support. She enjoys working with parents of babies and toddlers, aiming to help them find gentle solutions to their parenting problems and assisting them in incorporating healthy habits and natural health alternatives into their daily lives.

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