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What Is the White Stuff on a Baby's Tongue?

by
author image Mary Osborne
Mary Osborne has been an educational quiz writer since 2001. She is the author and illustrator of two children's books and her short stories have periodically appeared in literary journals since 1986. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Central Florida.
What Is the White Stuff on a Baby's Tongue?
Regularly cleaning a baby's tongue after feeding helps reduce oral micro-organisms. Photo Credit baby with finger in mouth image by Xavier MARCHANT from Fotolia.com

The sight of a gurgling, well-fed baby warms nearly everyone's heart. Alarm bells may start to jangle inside a new parent's head, however, when he spies a coating of white stuff on his baby's tongue. Instead of assuming the worst, a parent needs to switch gears to investigative mode, Make a quick and thorough examination of the strange, white coating to determine the proper treatment. The Ludlow Pediatrics website advises that certain white-tongue conditions are most common in newborns.

It May Be Milk

Before making a determination on the identity of the white stuff coating a baby's tongue, check how frequently the coating appears. If the coating seems to come and go and usually shows up after feeding, it may simply be milk residue. Milk residue wipes off a baby's tongue easily using a soft dry or damp cloth. If the skin of the baby's tongue is pink and healthy-looking after the residue disappears, no further treatment is necessary.

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It Might Be Thrush

If, however, white, blotchy spots appear on the inside of the baby's cheeks and roof of the mouth as well as the tongue, the baby may have thrush. The yeast infection Candida albicans often invades the mouths of newborns or babies less than 2 months old, states the Women's Healthcare Topics website. Passing through the birth canal, treating infections in infancy with certain antibiotics, or breastfeeding can cause a newborn to contract thrush. Thrush on a baby's tongue resembles curdled milk or cottage cheese. When wiped away, it may reveal raw, red or even bleeding areas. Babies with thrush often show persistent signs of discomfort during feeding or nursing.

Treatment of Thrush

Mild cases of oral thrush may spontaneously disappear on their own, while more stubborn cases require treatment with an anti-fungal agent, says Ludlow Pediatrics. Doctors usually prescribe Nystatin drops for baby or topical anti-fungal lotions to treat the yeast infection. Babies receive the drops several times a day using an eyedropper. On the bright side, oral thrush in infants is rarely serious and easily treatable. However, mother and baby may ping-pong the infection back and forth to each other through breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding and Thrush

Women's Healthcare Topics suggests breastfeeding mothers also use Nystatin cream at the same time babies with thrush receive treatment for Candida albicans. This lessens the chance of the breastfeeding mother and baby reinfecting one-another. Preventative steps against oral thrush include air-drying nipples between feedings and sterilizing any pacifiers or synthetic bottle nipples by boiling them in water for about 20 minutes. Sometimes, Candida albicans occurs after a breastfeeding mother takes a prescribed course of antibiotics, which can lower the threshold for developing yeast infections. If this is the case, the breastfeeding mother might consider supplementing breast milk with formula while she's on antibiotics.

Infant Oral Hygiene

The Intelligent Dental website suggests cleaning a baby's mouth and tongue thoroughly after feedings as a wise oral hygiene practice. Simply dip the edge of a clean washcloth or square of sterile gauze into a small bowl of warm water, open the baby's mouth and wipe away any milk residue. Use a gentle circular motion with the cloth on the baby's tongue. Intelligent Dental also recommends massaging the baby's gums and the inside of his cheeks during the cleansing process.

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