Thrush is caused by the Candida yeast and occurs in 5 percent of healthy newborns.

Thrush is generally a harmless superficial yeast infection, occurring mainly in the first two months of an infant’s life. Occasionally, it may occur later if there is antibiotic use or excessive mouth friction with a nipple or pacifier.

Thrush appears as white patches in the mouth, coating the inside of the cheeks, the inner lips or tongue. These patches adhere to inner mouth surfaces and cannot be wiped away. If found only on the tongue, it’s probably not thrush, but rather, related to a milk diet.   

Generally, no pain and no symptoms are found in most infants, but it may occasionally cause a mildly painful mouth or reluctance to suck.

To lessen the chance of thrush returning, decrease friction to the lining of the mouth by limiting sucking time to no more than 20 minutes for feedings. Limit pacifier use to bedtime and no more than one hour per day. Try smaller nipples and pacifiers as they may cause less friction as well.

Thrush is a self-limited condition, which usually clears on its own after two to eight weeks. Call your pediatrician if you suspect your child may have thrush, as your doctor may want to prescribe an antifungal medication to help clear up the problem.

This article was written by Barb Warner, RN, a pediatric nurse on the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Answer Line. For further questions or information, please contact our Family Resource Center.

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