She Says… The Saga Continues

The breastfeeding saga, that is. Owen and I have been undergoing intensive treatment for our thrush, trying to tackle it from every angle (internal, topical, holistic, prescription). However, we’re on day 10 (I think) and I’ve seen only slight improvement/change. This, apparently, is very rare. So rare, in fact, that another lactation consultant/friend/blog reader/teacher of the PumpTalk class I took a few weeks ago has suggested that – gasp! – maybe we don’t have thrush at all. Together we are exploring the possibility that my nipple issues/breast pain and Owen’s eating behaviors are caused by different issues.

Current theories we’re testing?

  • My nipple blanching and pain, as well as the shooting lightning bolt pains, COULD be the result of vasospasm due to possible mild Reynaud’s.Essentially meaning that temperature change (from inside Owen’s mouth to the chilly air) is causing the blanching and sensitivity I’m experiencing, and may be treatable with warm compresses and ibuprofen. This is particularly interesting to me because I have Googled Reynaud’s before because I have issues with numb, white fingers and toes in cold weather. After reading the symptoms I do not think I have full blown Reynaud’s, but even a mild case still could be affecting my nipples and causing pain.
  • Owen’s eating behaviors MAY be caused by a cow’s milk protein intolerance. A little Googling helped me learn that MSPI (milk soy protein interolerance) is the inability to digest the proteins in milk and soy. It occurs in 2% – 7% of infants, and most grow out of the issue by 1 year. It is not indicative of other food allergies, and has nothing to do with lactose intolerance. The treatment, obviously, is to remove all milk and soy proteins from the little guy’s diet, which, since I’m exclusively breastfeeding, means eliminating them entirely from my diet. Apparently 10 -14 days of total removal will give you the information you need to diagnose this issue. Some people even see dramatic results after 3 – 4 days. A friend of mine also said you can bring a stool sample to the pediatrician and they can check for blood, which also makes the diagnosis, but I’m going to try the elimination diet first.

I am both excited and terrified to do the dairy removal test. I would be over the moon to finally figure out what’s going on with poor little Owen’s upset stomach. He’s clearly in distress when he eats, and he’s such a little peanut already, he doesn’t have much room for low weight gain at this point. Not to mention the fact that it’s very wearing on me to feel frustrated and in pain after every feeding, and to constantly be wondering if he’s getting enough to eat. It’s scary, though, because I’m not sure I could successfully swear off every product/food with cow’s milk proteins (that’s not only milk, cheese, butter and yogurt, but also every processed food with milk traces in it, which is a LOT of things) forever. I am HAPPY to do it for 10 – 14 days, and probably even a few months, but learning about this food intolerance would force me to think seriously about switching to formula, and I feel like I’ve worked so hard to make breastfeeding work. Anyway, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In the meantime, we’re finishing up our thrush treatments just to cover all of our bases. For the next three days we’re doing the only treatment I have avoided until now… Gentian Violet, which is a powerful topical antifungal (NOT an herbal remedy, as I previously thought) that is BRIGHT PURPLE and turns everything it touches bright purple. Including my nipples. And my baby’s mouth.

Waaaaaah! Scary baby. I just have to keep telling myself it’s only three days!!!


23 responses to “She Says… The Saga Continues

  1. I am sorry you haven’t found an answer yet, it is so frustrating and hard when you just trying to figure out what is going on with your baby and you know that whatever it is is causing them discomfort. 😦 Parker has a dairy intolerance that we found out about when he was around 8 weeks old. I removed all dairy from my diet at the end of September and have seen huge changes. It was diagnosed due to blood in his diaper like you mentioned. I am not going to lie, it has been very hard for me to have to make such a significant change in my diet because you are right, dairy is in SO many things!!! It is worth it though because Parker seems to feel so much better.

    Good luck and I hope you are able to find out what is going on with baby Owen soon. 🙂

  2. Good luck! And remember, even if you don’t consciously eat soy, it’s in almost everything these days…

  3. Awww I’m so sorry the thrush treatment hasn’t solved your problems! I went dairy & soy free for Amber and very quickly saw a change in her happiness. I also thought it would be waaaay too hard to keep up, but it turns out it’s not that bad! Annoying, yes. But totally doable and to be honest, it’s also a reason & kick up the backside to eat more healthfully: whole foods, not much processed stuff. A lot of recipes can be adjusted to dairy/soy free. I’m not sure it’s the same where you are, but here it’s mandatory to put common allergens on the labels of packets, making it easy to find dairy & soy free products.

    Feel free to email me or DM me on twitter if you have any specific queries about foods – I could give you a few tips & pointers to help you out.

    Remember, all formulas are either based on cow’s or on soy milk. The hypo allergenic stuff (the reaaallly expensive stuff) is just made into smaller molecules. But still, I totally get that if you can’t figure this out? It would REALLY suck and formula would indeed seem the option. I’d get him tested though, for the dairy allergy, before you’d start him on formula.

  4. Shortly after I read your thrush post, I began to experience similar symptoms [painful burning letdown, pain in breasts after nursing or pumping, baby who wouldn’t stay latched because it just…hurt her]. I’ve been monitoring her mouth for any white that’s not traces of leftover milk and it doesn’t seem like she’s got thrush [so says her pediatrician]. She’s been spitting up after every feeding now and always wants to nurse. I thought it was just GERD or a mild case of reflux, but as it turns out it may be a disorder called Pyloric stenosis which requires emergency surgery to release the valve at the bottom of the stomach so she wont essentially starve to death from malnutrition… I, like you, tried to google-diagnose her symptoms and they’re also somewhat similar to the milk intolerance [if it’s not the more serious condition]. In my attempt to get her to feel better and keep anything down, I gave her an ounce of Similac Sensitive [pre-prepared] for lactose intolerance/milk and soy sensitivities. It, unfortunately, didn’t work. So not only am I going to take her to get an ultrasound today to diagnose/rule out Pyloric stenosis, I’ve also got to remove all soy products from my diet [I’m lactose intolerant, so dairy isn’t a problem for me] for two weeks just to troubleshoot…

    😦 I’m sorry that you’re undergoing something similar. Nothing wipes a new mum out [I’ve found] like not knowing how to make everything okay for their precious little baby…

    Good luck to you and Owen–for your sake, here’s to hoping it’s just a little allergy and not something more serious!!!

  5. I have a mild case of Reynaud’s, but haven’t had any problems with my nipples. I’m sorry you are going through all of this, but I am sure you will find the answer before too long! Oh, the things we do for our babes.

    Oh, and the purple mouth picture is CRAZY!

  6. The Laundry Lady

    Try not to be discouraged. We went through something similar when my daughter was a year old. Make sure that if you do opt to switch to formula that it is for the right reasons. I have too many friends who gave up breastfeeding very early on for reasons that ended up having nothing to do with breastfeeding. One friend gave up all dairy and then switched her son to formula for what ended up being an abnormality in his esophagus. It was still partly closed at one end, so most of what he ate came right back up. A minor surgery to correct the problem and he was fine. But by then my friend’s milk had dried up. I was treated for a bacterial infection and then my daughter and I were both treated for thrush. Antibiotics, Diflucan, Gential violet, grapefruit seed extract, vinegar, olive oil (I felt like I was making salad dressing on my breasts), I even tried yogurt. After two months of agony, we slowly weaned my daughter. Not the way I had hoped to end my breastfeeding. But at least we made it to one year. Though even at 16 months, I still miss it a little. Have you been checked or treated for a bacterial infection rather than a fungal one? (Though if you do have a fungal infection, antibiotics make it way worse). If you think it could be vasospasm, try keeping your breasts as covered as possible during and after feedings. (I’m sure people have probably already told you that). Also, I had another friend who had to give up dairy to breastfeed her daughter. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up all dairy for the complete time you breastfeed. You may have to just cut down, or give it up for a while and then slowly add it back in small amounts. Also, it could be related to gluten. Going gluten free is almost as hard as going dairy free, but I wanted to present it as a possibility. Plus, your son could be dealing with severe baby reflux. My daughter had that and we didn’t start treating her with medication until she was six months old. I was reluctant to medicate her, but it really did help. It sounds like you are trying soldier on and taking an active role in making this work. Breastfeeding can take a lot of effort for some of us, but I still think it’s totally worth it.

  7. Hi! I’ve been a reader for a while and decided to de-lurk because I had a mild case of Raynaud’s for the first couple months of breastfeeding my daughter (she’ll be a year at the end of October). My nips turned a purple-blue when I would first get in the shower and it was painful when they got erect. I chalked it up to the pain of breastfeeding, not realizing that it was not normal. I don’t have Raynaud’s in my extremities and never have, but apparently it’s not that unusual. My doc prescribed me low-dose nifedipene (which is normally for the blood) and I just tried to keep my breasts warm by staying inside a lot. Within 30 days it was gone and I was off nifedipene. My lac consultant also recommends vitamin B6 as well. Good luck to you. I hope whatever it is that is causing pain is easy to fix and gone soon! Breastfeeding just gets easier and more peaceful with time.

  8. I’m not sure I could remove all dairy from my diet for longer than the “test” period either and given my own struggles I completely understand your feelings and consideration of formula and a few months ago I never thought I would say that (re me,not you).

    If it turns out to be the milk proteins, does that mean your freezer supply won’t be usable?! Gosh, I hope not 😦

  9. We had the fun, “Huh, why is there blood spots in the baby’s diaper??” moment and ER trip to figure out that she’s allergic to milk proteins. Switching her to hypoallergenic formula (Alimentum) has helped her poop issues. Keep in mind that formula is at least double the cost of normal formula, but I know cutting diary is a rough thing too. Good luck!!

  10. I had a close friend who eliminated dairy and soy from her diet after they had the bloody diaper scare with their first child. She stayed on the strict diet for at least a year (I can’t remember when she weaned) and was SO happy to go back to normal when she was done (pizza!). Her daughter did fine after that and has no food allergies now – she’s almost 4 and drinks milk like a champ. My friend has a 1-year-old son now and he has no problems with dairy/soy. It may seem like a huge sacrifice (and not having done it myself, I’m sure it would be hard for me too) to limit your diet, but it IS temporary and doesn’t necessarily continue with the next kid.

    I experienced terrible pain during breastfeeding with my second son for much longer (like 2 months) than with my first (and I had no trouble with the first one so I thought of course I’d have no trouble with the second). And he was much more fussy while nursing. I finally figured out that he wasn’t latching well – he wasn’t opening his mouth wide enough so he was just clamping down on the nipple. We worked hard on improving that for a couple of weeks, and the pain and fussiness finally disappeared. This probably isn’t an issue with you – do you still use the nipple shields? But you never know – it could be something that simple. Good luck – I hope it gets better soon!

  11. Haha! I love the purple face picture. I posted a few of Isa like that but it was ALL OVER her chin and cheeks. You did good keeping it on his lips and in his mouth. I’m sorry you’re not sure what you have. Good luck figuring it out!

  12. Well, good to hear it’s not Thrush and hopefully it’s only dairy! Yesterday I found that my allergy to dairy has returned with a vengeance and I have to cut out dairy completely from my diet so I’m totally right there with you!!

  13. Ok, I did some reasearch on dairy and soy free foods. First thing, check your vitamins for soy along with other OTC medicines.
    Rice milk and possible Almond milk should be an easy replacement. I also read that Cheerios doesn’t have soy in it.
    I have compiled a list of different sites to help you in this journey.
    Premade products:
    This forum had some interesting things to say such as:
    “Just be careful because anytime you see MSG, Monosodium Glutamate, Glutamic Acid or mono or diglycerides, HVP plus many others, it means soy… “

  14. Is reflux a possibility? I know a couple babies who had GERD, and unfortunately it meant eating was a struggle for a while, but there is medicine to reduce the symptoms, and eventually they outgrow it.

    I will be sad for you if you can’t eat dairy!

  15. As both a mother and a maternity nurse I just want to say if you have had enough, and want to switch to formula just go ahead and do it. I was sucessful with breastfeeding, but didn’t have all the problems. You have already stuck it out with breastfeeding for months and it is your personal choice and decision in the end. Being a mother to a new baby is tough enough without being in pain all the time. You should be able to enjoy the baby too.

  16. Yeah, it only took a couple of days for a pain-free feeding for both me and baby. I was on the oral med and the topical ointment. Plus, giving Sam his oral meds. Pretty much destroyed the thrush. However, we did manage to get it again a month later.

  17. Kate, what exactly is happening with Owen when you feed?

  18. I’m curoius too what Owen is doing when you feed him. My little on is almost 4 months and at least half of the time he nurses, he pulls or turns his head away, kicks his feet, pushes away from me with his hands, etc. Is that what Owen does? Plus he is pretty gassy. I though he had a milk intolerance so I eliminated dairy from my diet (probably not perfectly but I did give up milk, butter, cheese, etc – the things that come to mind when you think dairy). He seemed to be doing better, but now I’ve sort of gotten relaxed about it and he is back to it. So I will be on the diary free wagon again to see if that really is it. Maybe he’s not latching right like the other poster said. Breastfeeding sure is a mystery! Good luck!

  19. So many wonderful comments. Thank you all so much!

    Sarah, I had never come across Pyloric Stenosis in my Googling. It sounds very scary to watch your baby go through! I hope that is not the case for your little one. It doesn’t sound like Owen’s issue, since he almost never spits up/vomits. Good luck figuring everything out!

    The Laundry Lady, Thank you so much for all of this info! You have a lot of experience with these types of issues. You are absolutely right about keeping my milk supply going until I’m SURE we’re ready to stop nursing. That would be so frustrating to “dry up” for the wrong reasons. Also, if eliminating milk and soy doesn’t do it for Owen, we will definitely look into a gluten allergy and/or reflux. I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that, though!

    Liz, The possibility of Reynaud’s is so interesting! I’ve never heard of it in nipples before, but it certainly does address the sensitivity and pink/white/blue coloring I get when I get out of the shower. I’m so glad to hear that you had a positive experience with a little medication and some warmth.

    Angie All The Way, YES the freezer stash will be useless to me if it’s the milk thing. I can’t believe it… after all that work I put in storing it away! Obviously his eating happily is more important than all of that, but frustrating nonetheless.

    Julie, I’m so glad to hear that your friend’s child is happily drinking milk now. I have to admit, I’ve always been scared to have a child with allergies, and it would make me so sad for Owen to live a life terrified of eating certain things. Hopefully he’ll be a textbook MSPI kid and grow out of it quickly (if that’s even the case). Latch issues could be to blame here as well, but I’ve seen several lactation consultants and they all say things look good when he’s actually eating.

    WindDrop, Thank you for doing all of that research! I appreciate the links!

    Auntie Lisa, Reflux is definitely a possibility. Apparently MSPI and reflux often go hand in hand. Owen almost never spits up, so I haven’t been thinking reflux was a possibility, but the more I read the more I learn… apparently babies don’t have to spit up to have reflux. So it’s something we’re considering for sure.

    Nicole, I really appreciate your comment… the potential switch to formula is something I need to give a lot of thought to, but you’re absolutely right that I’ve given breastfeeding my best shot at this point, and should be able to switch to formula without guilt.

    Jessica, Whenever I put Owen to the breast, he sucks for a second and then scowls, kicks his legs, bangs his fists on me, and pulls his head back and arches his back so he pops off the breast. Usually then there is screaming and fussing and crying as I try to get him to latch again and again and again and generally he won’t eat for more than a few minutes. Then because he’s been crying he has a ton of gas and burps, which causes him a LOT of pain for the next few minutes (sometimes 30-45). It’s a vicious cycle, and clearly he is in pain, but I can’t figure out what’s causing the pain. When he’s not eating or dealing with gas, he’s the happiest baby in the world.

    Hilary, That sounds similar, except Owen does it pretty much every time he eats, and sometimes to the point of not being able to eat for more than a few minutes. I’m interested to hear that you eliminating obvious dairy seemed to help! I’m hoping this is the issue with Owen and that I will be able to eat small amounts of dairy or at least soy so my diet isn’t quite so restricted. Good luck!

  20. My brother in law has a similar problem as an infant, with breastfeeding. Then my mother in law tried soy, that didn’t work, and he too was a skinny little bean. They went to an allergist, this being late 1960’s, and even with her not ingesting dairy and such, he still couldn’t take her milk. He ended up on a special formula that was made of lamb meat.
    It is so stressful when they are that little and you just don’t know what is going on. I hope it clears up what ever it is.

  21. Kate–does the same thing happen when you pump and give Owen the milk in a bottle instead?

  22. Meh, eliminating dairy and soy isn’t that difficult. Been there, done that. I think it’s totally worth it to be able to feed your baby breastmilk instead of formula (yes, formula has its place, but IMO not when you can make some simple changes). Besides, it’s not going to be for that long–maybe two years if you really stick with nursing, right? And on the bright side, cutting down on processed foods is good for you and good for your grocery budget anyway.

  23. MamaK, Yes, pretty much. He still seems to get the gas/bloating issues, but doesn’t fuss as much while eating.

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