Aug 6, 2014

Breast feeding mystery pain: Thrush, get rid of it for good!

My third child, you would think I would be a breastfeeding pro, right? My midwives and lactation consultants kept telling me it was just my latch that was the problem. What else could it be?  So I reeducated myself on a proper latch and persevered but the pain was getting worse each day. I researched for hours a day and cried with each feeding. Sure the first couple weeks are always rough but I had 2 successful breastfed babies before this.  What was I doing wrong this time? I came across vasospasm.  Yes! This was it! This had to be the problem. No, the symptoms fit with one exception, vasospasms cause an intense pain to cold.  Cold actually helped my pain.

Like I said the first couple weeks can be rough to breast feed, no matter how experienced you are. It takes time for the nipples to toughen up.  But on week 4 and 5, I knew something was seriously wrong.  I had to take my percocet pain killers to make it through a feeding.  

Here were my symptoms.  My entire breast burned through most of a feeding, tapering off towards the end. Then stabbing burning pain inside the breast began and continued for hours, usually tapering off just in time to feed again.  That was it. I looked over the common list of breast feeding problems. I thought for sure it was not thrush (Candida) because baby had no symptoms of it and thrush was not supposed to hurt when you were nursing. That is a FREAKING lie. I finally found an article on Kelly Mom that was helpful. There's a protocol by a Doctor. Google it, if you want specifics. I did follow the protocol but was only temporarily relieved.  

This is what I tried:  Grapefruit seed extract. Its sounds like a natural solution but it's really not. Tried this for one week. No noticeable change at all. Still in searing, "punch your face in" pain.

Gentian violet. I had to run all over creation to find it and ended up paying $21 for the bottle. It made no difference and made my babies mouth purple for a week. It is also not really natural solution either.
I also tried prescription Nystatin, coconut oil and even probiotics.  
Then I made all purpose nipple ointment (or have your doctor prescribe it through a compounding pharmacy. Hear it costs over $80 for one.)  Make your own with Lotramin, Hydrocortizone and Polysporin, equal parts of each. Finally some relief! Within 12 hours the pain was majorly reduced and I could nurse without crying. I thought YAY! I can get through this! Well, in 2 weeks the pain was back, not as bad as before but enough that I wanted to hit the wall with my fist a few times an hour. 
Well, I went through a cycle of reinfection for about 2 months. NO, for real 2 months. I would be cured for 2 days and reinfected for 3 over and over again. It was bearable but come on. Some days it was too much and I wanted to cry  cried all day.  I had been sterilizing binkis and even bought 6 new bras so I could wear a clean one everyday. Still the cycle continued. Finally I prayed! "Please, there has to be a way to cure this for good!" I was immediately told what to do.  I had done so much research I guess I just needed the guidance to put it in the proper order and proper protocol.  I was prompted to go ahead and use the essential oils that I was avoiding because they can have unintended consequences on things like milk production and are very strong, and intimidating to use on or near a new baby.  But at this point my last option was either essential oils or get an prescription for Diflucan oral which has lots of nasty side effects. I went ahead and used Tea Tree, which is a great anti fungal. I was also prompted to use the All Purpose Nipple ointment for pain and to heal the scab that would form every three days.  Also to microwave all pacifiers in water for 5 minutes and to launder anything that came in contact with baby's mouth or my breast, to be washed in hot water and one cup of vinegar. I'm not kidding it was that specific.  A flood of clear and precise thoughts and I knew just what to do after all of these months of suffering, and in 3 days I was thrush free and it has not come back! 
Here is a more precise breakdown or what I did. 
  • Use Tea tree oil, straight, one drop for both sides after every feeding and shower.  Do not wash it off before feeding. (may make baby a little colicky but its worth it to kill thrush) 
  • Use one cup of plain white vinegar with every load of wash.  Wash anything that touches baby's mouth or your bare breast. Including clothes that get spit up on, burp cloths, sheets, blankets, shirts bras, pajamas etc. 
  • Microwave (boiling for 15 minutes would work too) in a glass bowl of water, anything that comes in contact with babies mouth. Including pacifiers, binki's, bottle parts or toys. If baby is a finger sucker, put socks on babies hands at all times and wash them with the vinegar load of laundry. 
  • If you are still sore and have actual scabbing and open wounds from the thrush, use the all purpose nipple ointment after the tea tree oil.  The hydrocortizone does help with the pain and the polysporin helps heal the wounds faster.  It can take 3 days for the symptoms to subside so do not give up if it doesn't work the first day.  Continue the treatment for 2 weeks no matter what! No matter how good you feel keep it up to prevent it from coming back.
You have to do all of it at the same time because it is so easy to reinfect yourself.  Your baby can also carry it without symptoms and reinfect you, so it is so important to sanitize everything and it is so simple by just adding vinegar to your laundry. I had been doing this the whole time but with grapefruit seed extract and it clearly wasn't working. I hope all my pain and suffering can bless the lives of others who are struggling with this same problem. If you are not sure you have thrush, they can do a culture for it to know for sure.  Just ask your doctor or midwife. You don't have to suffer and breastfeeding doesn't have to be so hard and you don't have to quit to get rid of the pain!