If you’ve ever experienced thrush as a nursing mama you know it can be one tough cookie to crack. If you’re not familiar, thrush is an overgrowth of yeast (candida) in the body. It thrives in warm, dark places on the body and is a common postpartum issue. It typically presents in newborns as white patches in the mouth and/or a raised, persistent diaper rash. Yeast overgrowth can also make itself at home in a nursing mama’s nipples and milk ducts, causing both external and internal breast pain. In other words, it’s no fun at all.
** Please keep in mind that I am not qualified to give medical advice. I am simply sharing our experience and what worked for us. It is important to consult your own health practitioners when dealing with any health issues. **
I battled with thrush for ten long weeks. I believe it took hold around two weeks postpartum. Yeast is naturally present in and on everyone’s body, but normally it is kept in balance and does not cause health issues. A nursing mama can be more prone to an overgrowth of yeast occurring if her nipples are already injured. I had a rough start with breastfeeding my daughter, Charlotte (CC), which resulted in very sore, cracked nipples. The yeast moved in quickly after that and made the first three months of my breastfeeding journey a pretty difficult one.
It took me awhile to figure out that thrush was the culprit for my poor, battered nipples. It also moved into my milk ducts causing searing pain and burning sensations in my breasts. At my 6 week postpartum checkup, my doctor prescribed diflucan (fluconazole), a powerful oral anti-fungal medication. To give you an example of how challenging it is to kick thrush to the curb: someone with a typical vaginal yeast infection usually only takes one to three doses of this medicine; a woman battling thrush in the breasts is put on a three week course!
I started taking the anti-fungal immediately and also put myself on a strict candida diet (which I had done years ago) to try to starve out the yeast. It’s important to also treat your infant if they present symptoms as it is easily passed back and forth between the nursing mama and baby. CC never got oral thrush, although she did suffer through a couple bouts of an angry yeast diaper rash later on. I decided not to medicate her at the time because she did not have any symptoms and was dealing with other issues (mainly reflux) so I didn’t want to overwhelm her delicate system with an unnecessary medicine.
I diligently took diflucan for the entire three week course and followed the candida diet religiously for a total of 6 weeks. All the medicine did was mess up my digestion and the diet was frustratingly limiting for a nursing mama in need of more nutrients and healthy fats. I do believe one or both (it’s hard to know which) did move the thrush out of my milk ducts, but it stubbornly remained in my nipples until I started using at home topical treatments that I put together from doing lots of online research.
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My main priorities during our thrush battle was to provide comfort for my daughter first and then myself to preserve our breastfeeding relationship. I took action with CC’s yeast diaper rash by first making sure she was clean and dry as much as possible, which meant changing her diaper more frequently. I still change her before and after each nap (even the short 30 minute ones) now even though we’re thrush free. I also discovered the importance of making sure CC hasn’t grown out of her diapers. Air flow is essential to help maintain a yeast-free zone!
I attacked CC’s first (and worst) bout of yeast diaper rash with a daily bath bum soak, which involved diluting a half a cup of distilled white vinegar and about ten drops of tea tree oil in a few inches of warm bath water (in a full size tub). I’d hold her upright in this soak daily so just her bottom half was in it for up to ten minutes or as long as she’d let me before rinsing with clean warm water. Afterwards I’d let her tushie air dry for about half an hour. This took the edge of that uncomfortable rash right away. I did the soak daily until the rash was gone, which took about four days.
Additionally, I started a new diaper changing routine which includes two natural fungus fighting products that we still use daily. After each diaper cleanup I spritz her bottom with a combination of 15 drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) and distilled water which I keep in a small spray bottle on her changing table. I let this air dry for a moment before patting dry with a clean flannel wipe (patting ensures that I don’t wipe away all that I just sprayed). Although it’s important to keep baby’s bottom as dry as possible when dealing with yeast, this homemade spray really works wonders at keeping yeast overgrowth at bay!
After I’ve patted her dry, I apply a small amount of what I like to call *coconut cream* on CC’s bottom. This is a mixture of about a third of a cup of unrefined coconut oil mixed well with 15 drops of GSE that I keep in a little tub on the changing table. During the diaper rash bout I applied this with cotton swabs, taking care never to dab my fingers into the coconut cream pot or directly on CC’s tushie as yeast gets on everything and lives on persistently! Now that she’s yeast free I use my clean hands directly.
I use the same coconut cream concoction which I keep in a dedicated container in my bathroom as a topical treatment on my nipples. While thrush was still present in my nipples I applied it after each feeding using cotton swabs. This mixture is safe for baby and does not need to be wiped off before nursing. It doesn’t dry out or irritate my nipples, which other topical treatments I tried early on did. I still apply the cream first thing in the morning and last thing at night now as a preventative measure.
I also started taking apple cider vinegar (ACV) internally every day, something I got out of the habit of doing during my pregnancy. It’s important to use the raw and organic variety of ACV for its natural gut balancing properties. I keep the bottle with a shot glass in my bathroom so I remember to take it first thing every morning (I like to brush my teeth afterwards as it’s not the most pleasant aftertaste). I know that half a shot glass is equivalent to about a tablespoon. I simply fill it up halfway and shoot it down then follow with water. Easy peasy! It not only helps to keep yeast in balance but works wonders with my general digestive health.
Both CC and I take probiotics daily to encourage a healthy bacteria balance. I take Nature’s Way Primadophilus Optima, which I purchase at our local Whole Foods (in the refrigerated section). CC takes Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic for Infants. I simply let CC suck this powder off my finger every morning, which she finds delightful. If you choose to purchase these probiotics online be sure they are packaged with a cold pack and mailed overnight as they must be kept cold to keep the probiotics alive and effective).
Within a week of using these at home treatments with natural, easy to find products, both CC and I were and continue to be thrush free. Huzzah! I continue to use the coconut cream, probiotics, and ACV as mentioned to keep yeast overgrowth at bay and three weeks later we’re still doing great.
I wanted to share our experience in the hopes that it might help somebody out there struggling like we once did. Please keep in mind that what worked for us might not necessarily work for you. It’s important to consult your health practitioner before deciding what course to take. I’m here to tell you that thrush is beatable and breastfeeding can become the amazing experience you hope for if you’re dedicated to fighting the good fight. Hang in there, mama!
I’d love to hear about your breastfeeding journey and experience dealing with thrush if you care to share.
* Post contains affiliate links. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are genuinely my own. *