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Gentian Violet for Sore Nipples

Gentian violet (1% solution) is an excellent treatment for Candida albicans, a fungus that may cause an infection of skin and/or mucous membranes (inside of mouth, for example) in both children and adults. In small children, this yeast is a frequent cause of white patches in the mouth (thrush), or diaper rash.

Gentian violet solution, in combination with all purpose nipple ointment, is the best treatment of nipple soreness caused by Candida albicans. It usually works, and relief is rapid. It is messy, and will permanently stain clothing, but not skin. The nipple and baby's lips will turn purple, but the purple will disappear after a few days. Gentian violet is available without prescription but is not available at all pharmacies. It IS available at The Compounder. Just call ahead.

  • A small bottle of gentian violet is more than enough for an entire treatment. It costs about as much as a latte at the local coffee shoppe.
  • Many mothers prefer doing the treatment just before bed so that they can keep their nipples exposed and not worry about staining their clothing. The baby should be undressed to his diaper, and the mother should be uncovered from the waist up. Gentian violet is messy.
  • Dip a clean cotton swab (Q-tip) into the gentian violet.
  • Put the purple end of the swab into the baby's mouth and let him suck on the swab for a few seconds. The gentian violet usually spreads around the mouth quickly. If it does not, paint the inside of the mouth to cover as much of the inside of the cheeks and tongue as possible.
  • Put the baby to the breast. In this way, both the baby's mouth and your nipple are treated.
  • If, at the end of the feeding, you have a baby with a purple mouth, and two purple nipples, there is nothing more to do. If only one nipple is purple, paint the other one with the the gentian violet. In this way, the treatment is finished in one go.
  • Repeat the treatment each day for three or four days, up to a week (symptoms should be gone before stopping).
  • There is often some relief within hours of the first treatment, and the pain is usually gone or virtually gone by the third day. If it is not, it is unlikely that Candida was the problem. Of course, there may be more than one cause of nipple pain, but after three days the contribution to your pain caused by Candida albicans should be gone. However, if your pain is virtually gone after three or four days, but not completely, you can use gentian violet a few more days if necessary.
  • All artificial nipples that the baby uses should be boiled daily during the treatment, or well covered with gentian violet. Consider stopping artificial nipples.
  • There is no need to treat just because the baby has thrush in his mouth. The reason to treat is the mother's and/or the baby's discomfort. Babies, however, do not commonly seem to be bothered by thrush.
  • Uncommonly, babies who are treated with gentian violet develop sores in the mouth that may cause them to reject the breast. If this occurs, or if the baby is irritable while nursing, stop the gentian violet immediately. The sores clear up within 24 hours and the baby returns to feeding.

If the infection recurs, treatment can be repeated as above. However, if the infection recurs a third time, a source of re-infection should be sought out. The source may be the mother who may be a carrier for the yeast (but may have no sign of infection elsewhere), or from artificial nipples the baby puts in his/her mouth.

** For a complete "bible" on breast feeding problems I highly recommend Dr. Jack Newman's book, The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers

There is something that new mom's can do to help prevent infections from common organism, like Candida Albicans. It is inexpensive and very safe - for mom AND baby. Probiotics help keep uncomfortable organisms under control. I think any new mom would want to be talking at least one good probiotic every day - maybe two if the soreness problem develops. We strongly favor Florajen 3 - a wonderful brand made by American Lifeline. We have used this product for well over ten years and haven't found another that can top it - especially for the price.






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