Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Triumphant Tuesday: Breastfeeding Through Chronic Thrush

The pain of thrush can rival that of labor. Burning sensations that radiate through the breast are accompanied by deep stabbing and shooting pains. What's more, the outward appearance of thrush varies widely, making diagnosis a problem. Some women have red or shiny nipples, fissures or flaking skin, others exhibit no visible signs at all. And diagnosis is only the start. Thrush is remarkably persistent and knowledge of the best treatments to cure breastfeeding-related thrush is sorely insufficient, as this week's triumphant mom found out.

I gave birth to my daughter Olivia at home. I really wanted to let her find the breast herself but I remember almost feeling like I needed permission from the midwives. When they finally told me it was time to try and nurse I chickened out of the natural 'breast crawl' approach. Instead, they had me sit up in bed and told me to use the cross hold.

Nipple Damage

Olivia latched incorrectly immediately and I started to cry. I kept her on my breast and the midwives told me a bit of pain is normal but it should stop right away. Well, it didn't. After a few more minutes I took her off and the damage was done.

Baby Weight Issues

The next day, I had a lactation consultant come to ‘help’ me.  She weighed Olivia and freaked out, telling me that she'd lost 13% of her weight and she should have only lost 7-10%. She then told me told me the insane amount of breastmilk I needed to feed Olivia: 50 ml at each feed, and in 2 days from then 75ml at each feed. I was totally shocked by this amount. It didn't make sense. She told me if Olivia wasn't gaining weight in the next few days I would need to supplement with formula. I told her that wasn't an option, thanked her for helping me with my latch and asked her to leave. My husband was downstairs when this happened. When he came upstairs I was bawling. He didn't believe those numbers either, so of course on the computer we went, only to see how wrong she was!

My midwife popped in that afternoon and was mad that this woman even weighed the baby. She reinforced the reason why they wait a full week before they re-weigh and that Olivia had great color (zero jaundice from birth) very alert for a newborn, no soft spot on the head and a wet mouth so she was in fact eating. I sent my fiance to get me a pump so I could try to pump and heal my nipple.


When Olivia was 2 weeks old she developed a rash on her bum which turned out to be thrush. It had infected my breast was extremely painful. There was shooting pains from my breasts right up to my shoulder, even when I wasn't feeding. During the feeds my nipples felt like they were being cut with glass. We tried monistat, an antifungal treatment, on her bum which didn't work. I did a week of gentian violet along with it which also didn't work.

Friends' Sabotage

I hadn't left the house in 2 weeks because my daughter’s mouth was stained violet and I kept her naked up to 5 hours a day to air out. I felt like the worst mother in the world; like I'd failed from the beginning. Friends told me to just give formula. I wasn't talking to them for a way out of breastfeeding, I was just trying to vent my frustration. Sharing these experiences with other moms is supposed to be helpful. I wasn't trying to make anyone feel bad about their choice but I just don't agree with formula for my family.

Finally, a Cure

I finally found a doctor in Toronto - Jack Newman and followed his flucozanole treatment. It ended up taking me being on this drug for 37 days, continuing on a strict yeast free diet, probiotics, gentian violet and lots of air time before it went away. When Olivia turned 4 months old it was finally gone.

Fighting this for 3.5 months was exhausting and truly tested my confidence as a new mother and my commitment to breastfeed. To this day I cannot feed in that damn cross hold. I can only nurse lying down.

I believe that unless you're a drug user or have a lifestyle that could harm your baby every woman should breastfeed. I don't understand moms that stop because it was too much work to nurse every 2 hours. The thought of having to get out of bed and make a bottle instead of putting my baby to my boob seems like more work.

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Kelly said...

I have had thrush, twice. It sucks. Luckily, we have a good lactation consultant MD here in our small town and she helped straighten it out right away. I would laugh in the face of any women who told me thrush was the reason they quit breastfeeding because it sure as hell is not a reason to quit.

Alice said...

Really? Would you REALLY laugh in my face? Or would you just write horrible things about me for me to read on the Internet? No amount of formula is going to screw up a kid as much as being raised by people who are horrible enough to laugh at someone for being in unbearable pain. Shame on you.

linseymartinez said...

Even though I am breastfeeding through the unbearablepain of thrush I have to agree with Alice...everyone's experience is different and there is no need to ridicule a mom for her choice to formula feed. Double shame.

Johdee said...

I am in my 6th week of nipple thrush. It has been so painful at times that I have almost blacked out feeding. But I am determine to continue breastfeeding and I have a fantastic support network around me. I am so close to being done with the thrush and my doctor is doing everything she can to help. My baby is doing so well and has not had any thrush yet so, so far so good. I would say that it is the most unbelievable pain anyone would experience and I would imagine many women would stop feeding, all I keep thinking is that this will end and I will feed for along time after this and my son is getting the best he can get.

Anyone who gets nipple thrush please find a good lactation consultant who will help you. There is no quick cure but it will go away eventually. Good luck!!

Abby Miner said...

My little one and I have had thrush for one mo. and it has gotten a bit better but is for sure a long process to heal. I am using nystatin oral suspension for her mouth and tea tree oil for my nipples. The tea tree oil works sooo well but the nystatin seems to only be maintaining a low candida albicans growth. It does not seem to be clearing up her thrush by any means though. I am working hard at flushing her mouth with purified water after each feeding and then rinsing it with the nystatin. I agree with and whole heartedly support breastfeeding and its benefits for the child and mother. I too have experienced the pain of thrush and improper latching, even experiencing nipple bleeding/scabbing. I prefer to breastfeed my babies but if heaven forbid I couldn't I would feel relieved and blessed to have formula. Before I had my little one I said the same thing about "how could you not nurse if you were capable" aka being a bad mom if you don't breast feed although now I have true empathy towards us woman that do have rough experiences and can see and understand why some mother would choose formula. IN MY OPPINION as long as you are a good, loving mom that is all that matters.

Jean Vogler said...

So I know this conversation thread is old, but I want to add my perspective as well. I have 4 children, and I had thrush w/ my oldest and youngest. With my first, I saw a lactation consultant, used a special cream the dr prescribed from a compounding pharmacy, gentian violet, and pumped my milk. I was also told to bleach my underwear in the wash or I would continually recontaminate my breasts, and therefore recontaminate the baby. After one month, things were finally healed, but the damage was done, so to speak, getting my baby to learn how to latch on properly. She was born at 6 lb 6oz, but at the end of the first week was 5lb 2oz. You can imagine the tounge lashing I got from the pediatrician!! Fast forward 8 years to the birth of my last child. 1 day after we came home from the hospital I realized we had thrush, so I immediately called my OB. She prescribed Duflucan, and in 24 hours of taking it I was thrust free. We put gentian violet in baby's mouth for one day, washed a load of underwear with bleach, and it was done. No lactation consultant, no prolonged pain (yes, it does feel like glass stabbing you!), no significant weight loss, etc. It was the easiest fix! Comparing both of these experiences, I would use the Diflucan immediately no matter what, because it significantly improves the quality of life for mom and baby in those first crucial weeks when breastfeeding is one of the essential bonding moments you will have together.

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