This issue hits really close to home for me.
My son developed thrush almost immediately after his birth. He and I both struggled with it tirelessly for 2 months. Until I finally threw in the towel and gave up breastfeeding. At the time I was living in Germany with my 2-year-old daughter while Dave was deployed. He had missed the birth of his son completely and I was utterly isolated with a suffering newborn and a attention-hungry toddler. Needless to say, it was a very hard time in my life, but what made it worse was that I was able to find no real solution to the thrush problem. I searched for hours on the internet to try and find anything that might help, short of my giving up breastfeeding. Nothing. And the Doctors? Their solutions weren’t cutting it. Now that those struggles are far behind me I wanted to be sure to tell my story, in hopes that if others experiencing the same thing need help and support, they will be able to receive it.
If you need to know one thing about thrush, know this- it is VERY difficult to cure.
Thrush (in this case oral) is basically a yeast infection of the mouth caused by the candida fungus. Infants are not the only ones susceptible either, adults can get it too. Adults are able to contract thrush in the mouth, but more often than not it occurs in women vaginally or throughout the body (in the form of the Candida Related Complex).
When it occurs in the mouth it will make its presence known visually. Creamy white lesions will appear in the mouth, usually on the tongue or cheeks, sometimes looking like cottage cheese (see picture below). I’m sure you can imagine how it makes for one very uncomfortable, miserable, suffering infant. My son had such a terrible time eating because of it. There were lots of tears and sleep-less nights on his end AND mine.
So, how do babies get thrush? Well, in my particular situation, I was the source. I had the Candida Related Complex throughout my body. I had no idea though. Absolutely no clue. I hadn’t even heard of the problem, let alone known anything out of the ordinary was wrong with my body. But, because it was raging throughout my body, my son inevitably contracted it. Most directly from my breastmilk. I think he might have had some exposure in-utero though as well (When he was born he had terrible splotchy-ness and white pimples ALL over his face. The Dr. had said probably from some sort of infection. That should have been my first clue something was off.)
I was in complete and utter denial that it had anything to do with my breastmilk. “Certainly yeast couldn’t make it into my breastmilk? I mean, my nipples aren’t sore or in pain so it has nothing to do with me, right??” WRONG! I was also under the assumption that the food I ate didn’t affect my breastmilk and wouldn’t improve upon the situation. I refused to believe that ‘myth‘. Now I know better. Diet is everything. Since I didn’t at the time though, I just kept on with my normal diet and he kept on with his thrush.
During this two month period I must have gone to see the Dr. once a week, I swear. Every medicine they gave me failed to work. I was completely at my wits end! Sleep-deprived, lonely, and so sad about my suffering baby… I was two straws away from pulling out all my hair. First they gave me Nystatin to apply orally. It started to work the first day or two after using it- the white spots were going away. But as soon as they were almost completely gone they came back. Almost stronger and more determined this time, like it had found a way to become resistant to the medication and thrive off the sugars in it instead. I kept up with it for a while after that just in case, but inevitably went back in to try something else. Next we went with Gentian Violet. Gentian Violet is a dark purple solution that you have to ‘paint’ the affected areas with using a Q-tip usually. It also turns everything it touches purple. For two weeks my sons mouth, my entire chest, all my bras and shirts were PURPLE. And it seemed to be working while I used it, if for no other reason than I couldn’t see any kind of white patches in his mouth anymore. Sure enough though, once the purple cleared out, the white lesions showed themselves.
Our third and final solution given by the Dr. was a prescription for Ranitidine (Zantac). His theory was that my son was also suffering from acid reflux which was negating any success we were having with ridding the infection from his mouth. The yeast was just being brought right back up! And it was a good theory. One that I believe was truly in effect (although not the ONLY problem- my breast milk was still delivering fresh yeast to his mouth every time he breastfed). And he did spit up… A LOT. So it made sense. And the medicine helped a ton with his acid reflux. But the thrush continued to persist.
After the Dr.’s exhausted all their solutions, claiming that only time would do the trick now, I tried a few of my own. I started rubbing a bit of organic extra-virgin coconut oil in his mouth. I also wiped my nipples with a diluted vinegar solution after each time he fed. I also tried a baking soda solution at one point.
One of the very BEST efforts I put through on my part though was starting him on infant probiotics. The additional good bacteria into the infants system really helps to combat the yeast infection. The very best brand I found out there is Ther-Biotic Infant Formula. It is super, duper expensive… but for good reason. It delivers 10+ billion CFUs per 1/4 teaspoon dose daily. Compared to the 3 billion CFU’s per dose offered by cheaper brands- that is quite the difference. And when it is your baby’s health (and your sanity), money is usually never an obstacle.
Finally, towards the end of the two months I started to accept that the ongoing problem was partly my fault. And even if I started making the necessary diet changes immediately, it would take months for my body to be cleansed of the infection. I could have persevered and kept breastfeeding him, while having made the diet changes, waiting out the infection for the next few months of his infancy… but I made the decision not to. And it was a heart-wrenching decision to make because I loved breastfeeding him. Not only for his health, but for the special relationship it gave us. But I was alone in a foreign country and I couldn’t bare the stress by myself any longer. I couldn’t continue to watch him suffer and struggle feeding him, getting little to no sleep, while still having to tend to my 2-year-old as well. I made the decision to switch to formula. And between changing to formula and adding probiotics, the thrush was gone within a week.
Everything I went through for two months… and it just *poofed* away without any resistance. All because I gave up breastfeeding. It just goes to show you how important diet really is. This never would have been an issue if my body and health were in the right state before and during my pregnancy (because who knows how long I had been infected). You can find out more about the Candida Related Complex and how to treat it HERE. It usually occurs when you consume an unhealthy amount of sugars (which I SO often did)… if you’re at all suspicious about it in your life, I urge you to check it out. The biggest way to treat is to prevent!!
Strategies to Treat Thrush
- If breastfeeding, look at your own diet. Try and change things to help combat the Candida Related Complex if you think you might be suffering from it. If a diet change isn’t in the cards for you, then you can always switch to formula.
- See your Doctor for some prescribed medicine. Nystatin and Gentian Violet are two of the most common methods for Doctors to treat thrush.
- Does your baby have acid reflux? Acid reflux may be preventing any progress in clearing up the problem. Ask your Doctor about prescribing some medicine to help get that under control.
- Start giving your baby probiotics! This is always a good thing to do whether your infant has thrush or not, but it is a particularly great way to treat any digestive issues.
- Stop cross-contamination. Keep your nipples clean and disinfected. Thrush is an ongoing battle between mother and infant. If one starts to clear up, the other gives it right back to them. Do your best to keep your end yeast-free. You can disinfect easily with a vinegar or baking soda solution.
- If you are feeding your baby via bottle (whether by pumping breastmilk or with formula) the same rule applies- disinfect, disinfect, disinfect!
- Rub a little organic extra virgin coconut oil on the infected areas of your infants mouth. Coconut oil has anti-fungal properties and has been found useful to help in some situations.
HERE is a great forum thread for more info.
Does anybody else have any newborn thrush stories/tips they would like to share???? We’d love your input!