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I’ve mentioned before that I’ve taken every class available to me before the birth of my son. I read all the books recommended to me. So I was surprised around month 8 of breastfeeding when I started experiencing severe pain when he latched. It felt like his mouth was full of tiny razor blades. I kind of muscled through it at first, thinking that maybe my skin was just dry and cracking, so I kept using lanolin thinking that it would heal eventually and we’d move on.
Oh my Lord. Was I wrong.
First lesson: DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS YOUR BODY IS SENDING YOU. I literally wrote off every symptom of thrush for whatever reason.
Symptom 1: a blotchy red rash around the nipple. I wrote this off because it’s been a humid summer so, you know. Boob sweat, heat rash. It made sense to me.
Symptom 2: itching. Again, boob sweat, so I thought, eh, it’s pretty normal.
Symptom 3: cracking and splitting nipples. My thought, “he’s been nursing for comfort a lot lately. I’m sure it will heal soon.” I’m talking they were so terrible that when I pumped it looked like strawberry milk. Gross.
Symptom 4: cracking lips at the corners of your mouth. I had been sick, so I just thought this was due to the amount of time I had spent over the toilet recently.
Symptom 5: deep pain when latching. This one I just assumed had to do with the cracked and split nipples.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, do not ignore them like I did. It only gets worse. Trust me.
So what is Thrush? Simply put, there’s an over abundance of a bacteria called Candida present in your milk, causing the cracking and splitting of the nipples, the skin rash, and can even be passed to your baby and cause mouth sores which makes them hesitant to eat (judging by the amount of pain I was in, I can definitely see why). I let it go so long both the baby and I had to be put on antibiotics, but there are ways to prevent it from happening, and if you catch it soon enough, get rid of it on your own. Even if you have to be put on antibiotics, these things will help you feel better by your next feeding. And if you’re as miserable as I was, you’re willing to try just about anything. Even if you don’t have these symptoms, I strongly suggest making a habit of doing these things in order to prevent thrush. I’m telling you, I have a very high pain tolerance, but I was ready to scrap breastfeeding all together over something that could have been prevented if only I had known about it before hand.
1. Drink kombucha. This was recommended to me by one of my doula friends that helped her get through it. It promotes good bacterial growth that combats the bad.
2. Wash your nipples after each feeding. I use a 50/50 blend of white vinegar and water. Use a clean wash cloth every time. The alkalinity in the 50/50 mixture kills the bacteria and stops growth. I really wish someone had told me this before I began breastfeeding, because I feel like this alone would have prevented the whole ordeal.
3. A shot of apple cider vinegar a day keeps the doctor away. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s disgusting. But I really believe this is what helped me the most. The first day when I was really trying to kick the infection I drank 3 oz (1 oz, 3 times a day). I currently take 1 oz in the morning and 1 oz at night. I feel like it really helps with my energy level throughout the day as well.
4. Wash your bras in hot water. It kills the bacteria.
5. Sanitize your pump parts regularly and let them air dry completely before putting them away. I was notorious for putting my pump parts away wet at work because I was in a hurry. DON’T DO IT. Warm, wet environment= more bacteria. I have a sanitizing spray by Medela that I use at work for a quick and easy clean up, and at home I boil my parts for 3 minutes, then leave them out to air dry. Medela also makes sterilizing steam bags that you put in the microwave and sterilizing wipes. It’s really whatever is convenient for you, but you absolutely can’t skip this step. Not only are you infecting yourself, but your baby can end up seriously sick as well.
6. Take ibuprofen or Tylenol for the pain. If it’s severe enough, call your doctor and ask for something stronger. Most doctors are more than willing to help you persevere on your breastfeeding journey.
7. Nipple shields. They not only help dull the pain, but they also keep you from passing the infection to your baby. I like these because it has a carrying case that I can slip into my diaper bag and I’m not left digging for them while baby is screaming for milk.
8. Do NOT use lanolin if you think you might have thrush. While it’s great for chapped nipples, it keeps the skin moist and allows bacteria to grow. Unknowingly I created the perfect environment for the bacteria to grow and spread. Which created more open wounds. Which means more pain.
If you have thrush or suspect you do, check your baby’s mouth for sores. Both of us ended up being put on Nystatin because I had let it go for so long and I was in so much pain. The poor kid didn’t want to eat anything acidic because of the open wounds in his mouth.
This article is in no way, shape, or form meant to replace a doctor visit or medical attention, however this is what helped me wipe it out and keep it from coming back.
If you have any secrets that you use, please share them with me below!