She Says… The Silent Killer

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.

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14 responses to “She Says… The Silent Killer

  1. I’ve had thrush in my throat as an adult and it is NOT fun. Get well soon, both of you!

  2. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but if Owen’s eating behavior doesn’t improve, you might want to talk to doc about reflux. My baby just started doing the back arching and taking a few sips and then screaming about a month ago, and it turns out it was reflux. We had to start her on solids early (well, 4 months instead of 6 months) and give her Prevacid 2x a day. Reflux is fairly common too.

    Also, if he’s still fussy, try cutting dairy from your diet and see if that helps.

  3. Which doctor did you call? Owen’s pediatrician or your general practitioner? I think we too might have this same issue, but I am not sure who to call about it! Thanks for the post.

  4. Kara, The pediatrician asked me a few questions about his fussiness while eating and somehow my answers seemed to rule out reflux (I think the main thing was that putting him in an upright position didn’t seem to help and he doesn’t spit up after he eats). I eat A LOT of dairy, so I’m really hoping that’s not the issue. Argh.

    Abby, I called my OB’s office, actually. I am between general practitioners, and the OB’s office is where I saw the lactation consultant, so I figured they could help me out. They were happy to. They could not, however, treat Owen, since he is not their patient, so I also had to call the pediatrician to get Owen’s prescription. Lots of phone calls/trips to the pharmacy, but totally worth it! Good luck.

  5. Ugh, that really stinks! A very good friend of mine had it (along with her baby) for FOUR months. It was unbelievable, and yes, they used the stuff that turned his mouth and everything else bright purple. As I recall, she said the biggest help was, as you mentioned, the dietary changes. She was pretty frustrated because it was suggested to her rather late in the process, but found it quite effective.

    Hope it clears up fast!!

  6. Oh wow, I’m glad you figured out what it is!!

  7. oh man! an old coworker of mine gave birth to twins in may and they seem to be going through a lot of thrush these days. sounds super uncomfortable. i hope you both get better quick!

  8. Hi Kate. My Nadia was born a month ago and we have thrush as well. Turns out I’m kind of a hippy when it comes to mothering my baby and so once we were diagnosed, I didn’t pick the meds up that were prescribed to us by our Doctor. Instead I followed Dr. Jack Newman’s (a Canadian breastfeeding guru) “candida protocol” factsheet and used Grapefruit Seed Extract to cure our symptoms. I made a diluted solution of the GSE for dousing my nipples with after nursing. I also use that solution to swab wee Nadia’s mouth before nursing (so she doesn’t associate the bitter taste with nursing apparently) and I also drink 15 drops of the GSE in juice (stir REALLY well b/c it tastes REALLY bad) 3x daily. I have also been taking a high dose of probiotics the last two weeks which has certainly helped as well. Nadia and I are finally pain-free when nusing now and I highly recomend GSE (if used very diligently as above) to berid the nasty yeast from both Momma and Baby’s systems and google Dr. Jack Newman’s site when you get a chance. He’s a really reknowned resource for Canadian mothers. Owen is totally gorgeous btw!

  9. I had thrush not long ago and made a vlog about it. We got the meds too (but the different version here in Australia) Some things to note.. If it doesn’t go away treat him with a thrush cream for nappy rash. Hunter got bad nappy rash because of the thrush and it just wouldn’t go away until I treated that along with my nipples and his mouth. Also wash everything of his in hot water to kill the thrush and if he does take bottles/pacifiers/anything in his mouth you will need to steralize it to kill the thrush off. Once I was told this by another doctor our thrush (which had lasted a couple of MONTHS!) went away very quickly as we wernt being re-infected all the time.

    Hopefully it goes away soon for you, as its a horrible thing to endure!

  10. Thrush is so painful. I’m sorry you guys have it. Sam and I got it and then got it again. Make sure you use ALL the meds. It might come back with a vengeance if you don’t.

    Rubbing vinegar on your nipples help, too, but it’s incredibly painful.

  11. Oh god. Thrush is the WORST! I had thrust for over 2 months and I was trying to get rid of it so aggressively that my nipples got horrible, weeping rashes. I so hope you can get rid of it soon. If you have any questions, just let me know. I know A LOT about thrush now. Good luck getting rid of it.

  12. Rhiana, Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve done some reading on Newman’s treatment and I think it sounds very helpful. I decided to do a combination of the prescribed meds and Newman’s plan (I’m taking grapefruit seed extract and Acidophilus and the Nystatin cream is almost exactly like his APNO, all purpose nipple ointment) because I want this terrible thing gone as soon as possible since it is impacting Owen’s eating and therefore his weight gain (which is slim already). I’m so glad his plan worked for you! Thank you!

    Ashlea, Thank you for the tips! Sorry you had to struggle with this too. Yuck.

    Stephanie, I’m using a vinegar and water solution (1 T vinegar to 1 c water). It doesn’t sting, but maybe that’s because I have a weenie dose of the vinegar 🙂

    Esperanza, It IS the worst! Thanks so much. Glad you kicked it (despite the sore nipples)!

  13. Kate I have a question, do you get the pain only when you nurse him or also when you pump. I am also experiencing pain when I nurse my 6 week old boy, I did research on google and what I am feeling sounds like thrush, but the weird thing is that I only experience the pain when I nurse, when I pump there is no pain at all; so far I am blaming my pain on a bad latch but I keep thinking it can also be thrush.

  14. Vivi, No, it didn’t hurt when I pumped. At least, I didn’t think so at the time. However, now that I’m a few days into the meds and my condition is improving, I find I can use the pump on the highest setting, whereas before I was only able to go about halfway before it felt like too much pressure. So it didn’t hurt exactly, but I wasn’t able to use high suction. Mostly it hurt while I was nursing and after I was nursing (the burning/itching continued). Good luck! I hope you get your situation figured out soon (whether it’s a bad latch or thrush, it’s no fun!).

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