Question: I have been breastfeeding my 10-week-old son exclusively, and we both love it. My problem is that I have occasional intense itchiness on the skin of my left breast. When I scratch it, it brings on red welts that go away a little later. The itching does not involve the nipple, and it has no effect on our breastfeeding. Could this be thrush, and what should I do about it?
Answer: It doesn’t really sound like thrush. With yeast infections, both nipples are usually red and tender, but the skin on the breast itself is generally not affected. It is possible to have yeast anywhere on the skin, but it is most likely to appear in areas that stay moist, because the yeast feedson moisture and sugar. Areas susceptible to overgrowth of yeast include warm, dark, moist areas such as the mucous membranes of the vagina and the mouth, the folds of skin underneath the breast or armpit, the baby’s diaper area or mom’s perineal area or labia, and the nipples or milk ducts.
It sounds like more of a contact dermatitis or eczema type rash. Have you tried a topical Cortisone cream? Topical creams are generally safe to use while nursing, especially if the area you are treating doesn’t involve the nipple. If a cortisone cream doesn’t help, then I suggest contacting a dermatologist who can evaluate the problem and prescribe accordingly.
Anne Smith, IBCLC