Common Concerns While Breastfeeding - Yikes! Why Are My Nipples Burning?

Welcome to our blog series…. Common Concerns While Breastfeeding.  These aren’t the complicated, ‘come-to-my-house-immediately’ phone calls I receive.  Rather, these are the questions that come from clients and friends in the middle of the night, by text or by email, that don’t necessarily warrant a lactation consultation.  They can often be easily resolved with a few simple tricks.  So, I would like to share those tricks with you!

Why Are My Nipples Burning????

Oh, those itching and burning nipples and breasts.  It takes all of your will power to not walk up to the closest tree and rub your front side on it, like a bear would rub on a tree to get rid of fleas.  The itching can feel insatiable.  This is often your first sign that you have thrush, which is a yeast infection of a mucus membrane, your breasts being one of them.

How did I get thrush?

Well, just like a vaginal yeast infection, thrush is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in your gut.  Breastfeeding moms may often find that they get thrush after a dose of antibiotics.  This is because antibiotics kill NOT ONLY the bad bacteria in your gut, but also the good bacteria.  Yeast loves when there is an absence of good bacteria in your gut, so it decides to multiply and aim for any mucus membrane. 

Moms and babies who also have inflammation, such as a food intolerance which limits the absorption of important nutrients, or are just temporarily dealing with a compromised immune system, are also more susceptible to thrush. 

What does thrush look like?

  • Burning, itchy nipples and breasts
  • Red or pink nipples and areola
  • Painful feedings after a time period of painless feedings


And thrush doesn’t just affect the mom.... babies can get thrush as well.  When your baby has thrush, he may have white, cauliflower-textured spots in his mouth along the gum line or on his cheeks.  He may also have a raging diaper rash.  Babies with thrush may cry while breastfeeding because the milk stings the sores in their mouths.  And to complicate matters more, your baby may show no signs of thrush at all!


How does one get rid of thrush? 

  • First and foremost, make sure that the pain you are feeling is not due to a less-than-perfect latch.  Also, if the burning happens to only occur after the feeding, not during the feeding, it might be worth it to see if you have Raynaud's, which is a vasospasm of the nipple. 
  • Remove sugars (including most fruit and fruit juices) from your diet for about a week.  Yeast grows on sugar, so removing it from your diet restricts yeast growth.  It might help to eliminate dairy as well.
  • Consider starting a course of probiotics to help recolonize your gut, and your baby’s gut, with good bacteria.  I would recommend choosing a probiotic from the refrigerator in the herb section of a natural food store.  Probiotics are alive and begin to die off when at room temperature, so don’t purchase anything sitting on a shelf, unrefrigerated. 
  • You will want to wash all of your bras and underwear in a distilled white vinegar rinse cycle.  Also, soak anything that goes in the baby’s mouth, like a bottle nipple, in apple cider vinegar before rinsing it in soapy water.  The vinegar should help kill off the yeast hanging out on these items.
  • Colloidal silver spray can be very helpful in killing off a fungal infection (which is exactly what a yeast infection is.)  One quick spray to the nipple a few times a day, after your baby nurses, can be really effective in getting rid of the yeast.
  • Motherlove has a great product called Diaper Rash and Thrush.  This can be used not only on your baby's diaper rash, if she/he has one, but can also be used on your nipples.
  • All Purpose Nipple Ointment (APNO) - if that pesky thrush will not go away after trying the above recommendations, Jack Newman has a protocol for getting rid of thrush.  You can ask your primary care physician for a prescription for this to bring to a compounding pharmacy.  Midwives often have recipes for this as well, that you can make with over-the-counter medications.
  • If all else fails, you can ask your physician for Diflucan, which is the same medication used to clear vaginal yeast infections.
  • For those of you who are dealing with persistent thrush, sometimes it is the yeast die-off that is contributing to the pain.  Pascalite clay works in your gut by attaching to the yeast and helping you eliminate it. Give the company a call to talk about dosage for you and baby.
  • Lastly, definitely discuss this issue with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.  He or she may have some other recommendations to help remedy the out of control yeast.