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What Is Trush In Babies - And Is It Caused By Formula?

Have you spotted white patches in your baby’s mouth? Perhaps on the lips, roof of the mouth, gums, tongue or inner cheek? At first sight, they might look like milk residue, but you find they won’t wipe off, and the mouth looks sore. 

This is probably oral thrush. If that sounds scary, don’t worry. It’s 100% treatable with a simple gel, and it’s not your fault. It happens to both breastfed and formula fed babies.

What is oral thrush?

Thrush is a yeast infection, and it can affect anyone. Since babies have underdeveloped immune systems, they’re more prone to oral thrush than adults, though anyone can develop it as a result of illness, stress or medication.

It happens when the candida fungus (which we all have in our mouths) starts to grow out of control. Usually, candida is kept in check by your immune system and ‘good’ bacteria, but if the immune system is weakened, this delicate balance can be upset. The candida can then grow unchecked, causing thrush.

As well as white patches and a sore mouth, you might see thrush as diaper rash. This will usually be worse than standard diaper rash, made up of red pimples, and won’t respond to your usual creams.

Thrush and feeding

In breastfed babies, thrush can develop as a result of a thrush infection in the breasts. This can be difficult to deal with, as mom passes it to their baby, and vice-versa. If your breastfed baby is showing signs of oral thrush, and you have sore, cracked nipples, you may both need treatment. 

In formula fed babies, thrush can be caused by bottle teats (or pacifiers) that haven’t been thoroughly cleaned, allowing candida to build up on the teats.

Treating oral thrush in babies

You shouldn’t try and scrape off patches of oral thrush – this can cause soreness and bleeding. Instead, see your doctor. They’ll probably prescribe antifungal drops or a gel that you apply a few times a day for around 10 days. 

The challenge then is to stop the infection coming back. Make sure you clean and sterilize all bottles, pacifiers and breast pumps, and wash any muslins, towels or cloth diapers you use for your baby on a hot wash. If you breastfeed, you may need to express while you and your baby are treated.

If you’ve done all this and the infection won’t shift, see your pediatrician – this could be a sign of an immune system issue.

Is there any formula that can help prevent oral thrush?

No, it doesn’t matter which formula you use. The only way to prevent thrush is to be vigilant with cleaning and to get treatment quickly if it happens.

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