Using Gentian Violet

Using Gentian Violet

We believe that gentian violet (combined with "all purpose nipple ointment," see the information sheet Candida Protocol) is a good treatment of nipple soreness due to Candida albicans for the breastfeeding mother. This is because it often works even when used alone (though we don't recommend this, see first paragraph), and relief is rapid.

It is messy, and will stain clothing (actually, it will usually wash out eventually or may be removed from clothing with rubbing alcohol), but not skin. The 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. Call around before going out to get it. If you are in the US: gentian violet seems to be sold commonly as a 2% solution rather than a 1% solution. This is too strong a concentration and probably accounts for the mouth ulcers that some babies get after being treated with it. The pharmacist should dilute it for you. It's easy to do on your own: just add an equal amount of water to the gentian violet 2% and you have gentian violet 1%.

1. About 10 ml (two teaspoons) of gentian violet is more than enough for an entire treatment.

2. 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.

3. Your baby will be less purple if, before you apply gentian violet, you rub some olive oil into the baby's cheeks and around his mouth.

4. Dip a clean ear swab (Q-tip) into the gentian violet.

5. Paint one of your nipples and the areola and let dry for a few seconds.

6. Put the baby to the breast. In this way, both the baby's mouth and your nipple are treated.

7. When baby is finished on that side, touch up the gentian violet on the nipple if necessary, place a breast pad over top, and cover up that side.

8. Repeat for the other side.

9. 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 ear swab and the gentian violet. In this way, the treatment is finished in one go.

10. A cotton pad can then be used to wipe the excess gentian violet from baby's face.

11. Repeat the treatment each day for at least three or four days to see if it is working and then continue for the rest of the week if it is seen to be working (see the Candida Protocol information sheet for how long to use gentian violet).

12. 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, though it seems Candida albicans is starting to show some resistance to gentian violet, as it already has to other antifungal agents. 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.

13. All artificial nipples that the baby uses should be boiled daily during the treatment, or well covered with gentian violet, or rinsed in a solution with grapefruit seed extract. Consider stopping artificial nipples. Artificial nipples can interfere with the way the baby latches on and may contribute to your pain.

14. 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, only very occasionally seem to be bothered by thrush.

15. 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, and contact the clinic. The sores clear up within 24 hours and the baby returns to feeding.