Is your breastfeeding session causing dread and tears?  

Are you thinking about maybe, just maybe, quitting nursing all together cause it hurts so much?

Are your nipples cracked, sore and maybe a little rashy looking?

Have you checked your baby’s latch to make sure it’s a good one?

If you answered YES to all of these question, then it is possible you have… That pesky, pain in the nipple infection: Thrush

We’re talking about thrush, because it’s something you need to know about.  It’s one of those nasty little complications that can happen with breastfeeding.  If the baby isn’t showing symptoms, that doesn’t mean you don’t have thrush. I’ve had sore nipples before and I will tell you straight up, thrush is worse.  

Thrush hurts dangit, it hurts bad!

First, check your baby’s latch

Your nipples could be sore, cracked and chapped if your baby has a bad latch so you’ll want to rule that out first.  Does your baby open wide enough to get a good amount of areola along with nipple?  Then again, if you have thrush, a bad latch will only cause more pain, so ensure your baby is getting a good latch.

If you have any doubts, consult a lactation specialist or your OB right away. Don’t let a bad latch continue!

Is it thrush?

Okay, so do your nipples appear to have a rash on them, appear cracked or chapped?  They can look whitish almost like a film on your nipples. Some women with thrush also report itching, burning, and sometimes sharp, shooting pains when their milk lets down.

Sometimes, thrush will show up first on the baby.  Babies normally have a white milky tongue from nursing, but with thrush, an infant will have creamy white dots or patches that appear inside the cheeks, on the gums, tongue or lips.

*Be warned.  If you google images of thrush, the pics can be gnarly. *

What is thrush?

Thrush is an infection that develops from  Candida yeast and is very common in babies.  Especially breastfed babies. Thrush in the mouth looks a little bit like tiny cottage cheese bumps that might bleed when you try to wipe them away.  And,… thrush in the mouth is sometimes followed by thrush on the bum.  Sadly, it may have come from you, mama.

Keep in mind that breast milk has high sugar content which feeds bacteria and makes your nipple a perfect breeding ground for Candida. Ugh, right?

So, you could end up with sore, aching nipples but remember that might only be the start of something worse.  The bacteria could proliferate and infiltrate your milk ducts.  So painful nipples is not something you really want to ignore!

Standard treatment

If you think you have thrush, call your pediatrician and call your OB for assessment and treatment. If it turns out you have thrush, you’ll both have to be treated simultaneously to prevent passing it back and forth.  The standard treatment proscribed by doctors is Nystatin. It’s an oral anti-fungal you spread on the inside of the gums, cheeks and tongue and then you’ll get a cream for your nipples. There are natural, crunchy-mama cures. So do your research because thrush by itself is not dangerous and you really only have to treat it if its painful for you or your baby.

But, anti-fungal treatment is just a bandaid

I hate to break it to you but any treatment to clear up thrush symptoms is merely a bandaid. You have to get at the root cause and prevent thrush from coming back and that means you’ll have to make some changes to your diet and probably your lifestyle.

First, let’s focus on relief

I have a very special trick that will help get rid of, prevent thrush. You ready to hear it? It’s quite magical……

  1. FREE THEM TITTIES!!!   Let the ladies fly free.

That’s the trick. Thrush thrives in warm damp environments, so the number one thing you have to do is make sure your nipples air out and dry completely before putting them away. Out in the sunshine would be best –  if you can find a private spot outside.  It’ll do wonders to expose your nude breasts to good old sunshine a couple times a day.

If you’re like me and your milk drips like a leaky faucet, put a hand towel under your boobs.

If you use them, change your nursing bra pads every time they get wet.

  1. Keep your nipples clean with soap and water. Or if you’re adventurous…

Clean your nipples with baking powder and vinegar. Recommended after a nursing session.

  1. Probiotics are essentially mandatory during pregnancy and for nursing

Take a good high quality probiotic daily. Remember anytime you use an antibiotic you have to counter it with a probiotic.  You need to rebalance the good bacteria in your stomach because this leads to a good immune system.

You can put some of the probiotic on your nipple before a nursing session. Letting  the probiotic work its magic not only for you, but for baby too.

  1. Put some coconut oil on your nipples, not only will it help with the dry soreness, coconut oil is anti-fungal. Raw Extra Virgin is best.
  1. Grapefruit seed extract is another popular home cure.  Some women swear by this. You’ll want capsules not extract.  Salary sells one in 60 capsules at 250 mg dose for $12.75. Nature’s Way for 13.50 so it’s not bad.
  1. Gentian Violet is an excellent remedy.

I personally tried many different treatments. The one that worked for me was Gentian Violet. When used properly it can clear thrush up in as little as 3 days.

Gentian violet is a dye that kills bacteria and fungi.  1% solution is strength you need but it’s commonly sold as 2%. This means you MUST dilute the 2% – 1 to 1 – to get it to 1%  and I suggest using hot water because it’s preserved with alcohol and the hot water will help evaporate the alcohol.  If you are going to put it in baby’s mouth, put coconut oil all over their face first. Remember, I said it’s a dye? It’s hilarious but your baby’s mouth will turn purple.

But the best way to administer is to paint one of your nipples and the areola around it and let it dry for a few seconds before putting the baby to the breast.  This way, you’re dosing both of you at the same time.

Repeat for the other side when it’s time to feed on that side. Repeat this treatment for at least 3 to 4 days to see if it’s working. If the baby becomes irritable, or refuses the breast, you may need to quit immediately.  If all is well, continue for the rest of the week.

So you see? There are plenty of things you can do at home. You can do all of these things simultaneously as they are all natural remedies and compliment each other.

Now, let’s focus on remedy

Remember I mentioned lifestyle changes?  Well, there is no real way to “get rid of” candida – it will always be there.  But you can keep it under control.   Here are the best known ways to that:

  1. Eliminate sugar – easier said than done, right?  But you really should.  Sugar feeds candida. Eliminate sugar and you have a better chance of keeping candida under control.
  2. Probiotics – keep them in your diet! Good bacteria is the best defense against bad bacteria.  That’s a no brainer, right?
  3. Increase your water intake – help your body flush the toxins. Not drinking enough water to keep your pee running clear to pale yellow is a recipe for disaster.  Your body needs more water when you’re breastfeeding anyway – so drink up!

But first and foremost, if you’re feeling pain and think you or your baby have thrush, call your doctor.  Discuss your options.

Lastly, I know this article was about thrush and easing the pain in your nipples, but while we’re on the topic, don’t forget to perform a self-examination on your breasts monthly!  As they say – save the TATAs!

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Til next time,

XOXO Ky

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