Thrush and what to do about it

by Heather Flett on August 16, 2012

in How to,Momoirs of a Rookie Mom

+++ This is part of an email I sent to Whitney a few weeks ago. +++

I hope you never get thrush.

The stinging, burning pain is practically unbearable. I want to chew through my chewbeads. I have the urge to “throw the baby across the room” while nursing that I had at the very beginning. I think “they” call it cat tongue or something but it feels like a rat is gnawing at my ta-tas. And not just during, but afterward, for three hours.

I hope I have thrush.

Because that’s what I’m treating by taking this pill (for 3 weeks before I get full relief) and painting my nips purple. Because if I don’t have thrush, then I don’t know what to do with myself in another 16 days when this still hurts so much.

I hate to end my illustrious and productive nursing career on a low note but I am not planning a victory baby to make up for it. If this is how it will go down — in flames, so to speak — then so be it!

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First, there was itching (annoying but bearable). Then came the bleeding; I noticed blood dripping from my baby’s mouth during already-painful nursing; he looked like a little vampire. When these symptoms evolved into intense hellfire pain deep in my milk ducts, my doctor suggested thrush as the culprit, even though my baby never presented with any symptoms. She said that thrush is quite challenging to diagnose but easy to treat with an anti-fungal pill (same as you’d get for any yeast infection). Though I wondered if my diet of sweets and treats might be to blame, she said I could take the pill along with my coffee and donuts. Gotta love western medicine.

Unfortunately, my doc also told me that the pill might take the full 21 days before I felt any improvement. So in addition to the medicine, I purchased some over-the-counter purple stuff to apply — umm, err, how to put this delicately? — topically. Yes, I painted it on my nipples.

There, I said it.

Using a Q-tip dipped in Gentian Violet antiseptic (to keep the liquid sterile), I swabbed myself once per day before nursing for four days. That stuff stains like crazy so be ready with the nursing pads. The purple stuff helped immediately, but only a little bit. I took four days off and did another four days on.

Because of the thrush, I cut my nursing down from five sessions to three right away. Because of dropping sessions, I also got plugged ducts.  Twice.

Unfortunately, after six weeks of various forms of treatment, it still hurt. While the agony was reduced (see “burning hellfire” comments), the discomfort was sucky enough that I could no longer justify nursing a nearly one year old who barely cared one way or another. And so we stopped altogether, but I can’t help wonder if I need to cut back on the sweets anyway. [See also I give up, whining about weaning.]

Thrush is a hot mess. While I talked with real doctors, lactation consultants, friends, and “Dr. Google,” I can’t diagnose you over a website. What I learned online about symptoms and treatment, I learned from the kellymom guide to more than you ever wanted to know about thrush. If you’re suffering from it too — and I hope you’re not!! — check out these articles. And good luck to you!

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This post was sponsored by Q-tips as part of their tipster program. See their Facebook page for more quick tips and tricks. Unfortunately, the story is mine.

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RookieMoms co-founder & mom to 3 boys in Berkeley, CA. Bossy big sister and project manager turned blogger helping moms enjoy their first years of motherhood. Find me on my other site on 510families.com or hiding in my minivan eating dark chocolate.

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