Also known as So THAT’S Why He’s Like That.
I made a startling realization the other day. OWEN AND I HAVE THRUSH.
For once my excessive Googling helped me. Through a series of clicks, I identified an elusive issue that has plagued Owen and I for the last month. Thrush. That’s right, we’ve had it for a month without realizing it. For those of you lucky enough to not know what thrush is, it is a yeast infection on the nipples and/or the baby’s mouth. Although it sounds totally disgusting, it’s pretty common. Most everyone I’ve told since my diagnosis has said, “Oh, I had that” or “Oh, my sister had that”. Anyway, it presents itself in different ways in different situations, so the symptoms are kind of vague. That’s why I wrote them off for the last month, thinking they were caused by something else entirely.
Here were the symptoms:
- Red, itchy, irritated nipples. Since I had so much trouble breastfeeding, I figured that the redness and irritation was due to my sensitive boobs getting used to breastfeeding without nipple shields (I quit the shields cold turkey when Owen was 6 weeks old, and that’s when I think this all began). Now I realize that not everyone walks around feeling like their nipples are sharp knives that twist and turn whenever they touch a shirt, the air, the shower, whatever.
- Burning sensation during letdown/nursing. Again, I thought this was just something I had to get used to. When my milk let down when Owen was nursing, it felt like hot lava. It would go away after a minute or two, so I just practiced my deep breathing and told myself to suck it up so Owen could get the benefits of breastfeeding. Ummm, how nice to know it doesn’t have to feel like that!
- Lightning bolt pains in my boobs after nursing. When nursing was over, the pain was not. I’d often get shooting pains like aftershocks once Owen was finished. They almost felt like muscle pains or a deep throbbing deep inside. Apparently that’s not normal either.
- Nipple blanching/white patches. Sometimes after nursing or in the shower I would notice sections of my nipples would turn white, sort of like when you squeeze your fingers together and the skin turns white or the blood drains away. I would see that sometimes, but blame it on a bad latch or regular nipple compression.
- Owen’s white tongue. I Googled thrush several times prior to diagnosing it, and each time I would read that the baby usually gets these cottage cheese-like sores in their mouth. I examined Owen’s mouth and found nothing like that. I did see white stuff on his tongue, but it didn’t look anything like what I saw on the internet, so I wrote it off as leftover milk. This one is tricky, because many babies DO have leftover milk, so I kept saying to myself that what I saw was perfectly normal. However, I saw the pediatrician last Friday and I wish she had asked me a few questions or brought up the idea that his white tongue may be thrush. Clearly she should know the difference?!
- Owen’s increasing fussiness while eating. This is the kicker that actually led me to diagnose myself. We have always had a bit of trouble breastfeeding, but recently (like in the last 3 weeks or so), Owen’s fussiness while eating has increased. He will latch on (he’s a very good latcher), then suck for a few seconds, then pull off, yank his head back or sideways (still holding on to my nipple – ouch!), and kick his legs and scream. Nursing sessions involved a lot of holding him down like a crazy person and stuffing my nipples in his mouth.
Now I realize Owen has been in pain every time he ate for the last few weeks! It explains everything. I even read that babies with thrush are more gassy because of all the crying and squirming they do while eating (which is something I’ve been struggling with, but I just thought he was a gassy baby).
As soon as I put all of these symptoms together, I called the doctor. They saw me immediately, and after looking at my nipples for about 5 seconds they agreed that they were definitely thrushy. I could have done a little dance. While I am sad to have this awful infection, I am SO HAPPY AND RELIEVED to diagnose it and have a plan to fix it. Visions of happy nursing sessions and a calm baby have been swimming in my head since yesterday (when I saw the doc).
I am taking Fluconazole pills for a few days, as well as using Nystatin cream on my nipples after nursing a few times a day for the next 2 weeks. Owen gets a liquid version of Nystatin squirted in his mouth before eating for the next 10 – 14 days. I’m also going to eat a lot of yogurt (the live active cultures help regulate yeast) and minimize sugar (which feed the yeast) to help things along. I have heard of an herbal treatment for thrush using Gentian Violet, but I’ve also read horror stories of that stuff turning everything it touches (including the baby’s mouth) bright purple! I’m going to try the meds first and hope to get this yeast gone as fast as possible.
Wish us luck! Thrush SUCKS. But I am so ready to have my happy eater back.