What Causes Babies to Have White Tongues?

Two things can cause a baby’s tongue to turn white: thrush and milk residue.

Both are common and can form a thick white coating on the tongue that looks like cheese. In healthy babies, neither condition is serious, although thrush can cause some irritation.

This article looks at the causes of white tongue in babies.


Thrush can affect anyone. However, it is most common in very young babies between 1 month and 9 months of age. Studies have found that it affects up to 37% of babies in the first month of life. It happens equally to women and men as well as those born through vaginal or cesarean section.

Thrush occurs in breastfed and bottle-fed babies. It usually occurs in areas of the mouth associated with sucking. This includes:

  • Tongue
  • outside corner of mouth
  • inner lip and gums


Thrush is a yeast infection.The most common reason is Candida albicans, A fungus that occurs naturally in the gut and mouth. Most of the time, the body’s immune system stops the fungus from getting out of control.

Because babies’ immune systems are immature, they are more susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections. A baby’s mouth is dark, warm, and moist.It’s the perfect environment Candida albicans Flourish.

Babies can also develop oral thrush if they were born vaginally by a mother with an active yeast infection. Babies who are given antibiotics or steroids can also get thrush. This is because these drugs kill disease-causing bacteria and some good bacteria that control yeast.


Thrush is caused by a common fungus. Your baby’s mouth provides a warm, moist environment where it can thrive.


Thrush usually appears as a milky, slightly raised bump. It can appear in these areas:

  • Tongue
  • inner lip
  • gums
  • top of mouth
  • back of throat

When these lumps coalesce, they look like a white or sometimes yellow coating in the mouth.

Babies with thrush may also develop cracks in the corners of their mouths. Babies with thrush can be irritable, especially when trying to feed. This is because the patch can sometimes make sucking and swallowing uncomfortable, but not always.

Thrush cannot be scraped or rubbed off and may bleed slightly if you try.


Thrush is usually milky white and may form a coating inside the mouth. It cannot be erased.


Your baby’s doctor can usually diagnose thrush by looking at your baby’s mouth. Treatment will depend on severity.

  • Mild cases that don’t affect your baby’s feeding may not require any treatment and go away within a week or two.
  • Moderate to severe cases are usually treated with antifungal drugs, such as mycostatin (nystatin). Apply it directly to the white patches several times a day using an applicator or dropper.

Sucking for extended periods of time can irritate an already sore mouth. If thrush is making your baby uncomfortable, try the following:

  • If you are breastfeeding, limit each feeding to 20 minutes.
  • If you’re bottle feeding and your baby is resisting, try dropper feeding.
  • If your baby uses a pacifier, use it with caution.

With treatment, thrush usually improves within four to five days. Call your doctor if your baby has:

  • not eating well
  • very picky
  • fever

Prevent the spread of thrush

Thrush is highly contagious. Take the following steps to prevent transmission:

  • If you are breastfeeding and your nipples are red, sore, or cracked, see your doctor. You and your baby can spread the infection back and forth.
  • If you are bottle feeding, put the bottle nipple and nipple in the dishwasher. You can also wash with hot soapy water after each use.
  • Store prepared formula or bottled breast milk in the refrigerator. This can help prevent yeast from growing.

similar conditions

Other oral diseases, such as Epstein pearls, are also common in infants. These are tiny, harmless cysts that are usually white or yellow. They usually appear on the gums or roof of the mouth, not the tongue.

Milk residue (milk tongue)

Sometimes the white coating on the tongue is harmless, such as residue after a baby feeds or drinks from a bottle.


Young infants’ diets that consist of breast milk or infant formula can leave a white coating on the tongue after feeding. This may be more obvious if your baby is a newborn. This is because babies under 3 months naturally produce less saliva than older babies and children.


Thrush can affect the entire mouth and even the outer corners, but milk residue only affects the tongue. It’s hard to tell which one your baby is just by looking at it, but it’s possible to gently scrape away milk residue, which thrush cannot.

clean baby’s tongue

After washing and drying your hands, dampen a clean gauze cloth with warm water. Wrap it around your fingers and gently rub your child’s tongue. If the residue comes off easily, your child may have milk tongue instead of thrush.


The milk residue does not need to be treated. It comes and goes without causing any pain or discomfort to your baby. The milk tongue usually disappears when the baby grows teeth and starts eating solid foods. Saliva production also increases at this time, which helps flush milk and food particles from the mouth.


There are two things that can cause your baby’s tongue to turn white: thrush and milk residue. Both are relatively harmless.

Thrush is caused by a fungus. If your baby is healthy and the fungus does not seem to be causing discomfort, no treatment is required. More extensive infections may require antifungal medication.

Unlike thrush, milk residue is easy to wipe off. It may come and go, but as the baby grows, it goes away permanently.

VigorTip words

If your baby is healthy, neither thrush nor milk residue need treatment. If the thrush seems extensive and/or makes your child uncomfortable, call the pediatrician. Thrush responds very well to antifungal medications.

Good bottle and breast hygiene can prevent thrush from recurring. Wash bottles and teats in the dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher, some experts recommend boiling. Others say warm soapy water will work too.

If your breasts are red, sore, or have cracked nipples, it could be a sign of a yeast infection. Please call your doctor for guidance.