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Stubborn Thrush Meets Stubborn Mom

I consider myself a pro when it comes to breastfeeding. I’ve white-knuckled through the painful first weeks (twice), experienced the pitfalls of supply and demand, attended local Le Leche League meetings, and eventually been able to provide advice to other nursing mothers.

Fate figured it was time to kick me in my side with a steel-toed boot.

The name of that boot was: thrush

If you’re not sure what thrush is, well, it is fungal infection of the breast that causes severe pain. It’s undoubtedly the largest obstacle in breastfeeding. If you breastfeed (or have in the past) and never had to deal with it, consider yourself blessed by heavenly angels and all things that are holy. 

You are blessed by angels, fuzzy bunnies and white doves.

Avoiding antibiotics may help reduce your chances of dealing with thrush (take it from someone who has dealt with it, it’s worth avoiding antibiotics merely for this fact alone). Although in my case, antibiotics was not a culprit.

Thrush is Evil – My Story and How I Prevailed

I had breastfed my first daughter successfully for 20+ months and I was blessed with another daughter 6 months later. Everything was normal for 8 months…and then I started to feel some pain deep in my breast while pumping at work.

I thought nothing of it and just dealt with it.

Keep in mind, 4 month prior I had wrote a post entirely dedicated to using pain as a communicator…we should listen when there is pain since it is one way our bodies tell us something is out of sync (usually a late indicator). You can read more about that here: Natural Childbirth: Pain With Great Purpose.

Isn’t it great how life will keep attempting to teach you a lesson over and over until you finally “get it”? And even if you think you “got it” the first ten times, life wants to make sure you remember.

Life is awesome.

After about a week or so of that type of deep-sharp pain, came the excruciating soreness and cracking nipples.

Yippie for nipples that are cracked.

Then came the issue of my supply dwindling down to nearly nothing. I had to pump all day and all night - no kidding. And you know what milk looks like when you have to pump with excruciatingly painful, sore, cracked nipples? Oh, let me show you –

What the hell am I supposed to do with that?!

I thought if I just waited long enough the agony and misery would heal on its own. I was wrong.

Waiting until it got to the point of utter anguish and torture, I reached out to someone I met through a local le leche league meeting about a year earlier.

I wanted something I could incorporate that was as natural as possible. This is what I did:

Changed Pumping Routine:
I was already using coconut oil after every pumping session although this wasn’t making any dent in my symptoms. Although now, I started a better routine for cleaning up while pumping at work. The current routine was just horrendous – I would pump and then that’s it. I never wiped up or anything. I started using a non-antibacterial soap on my boobs after I pumped and also washed the equipment very well afterwards.  (Note: washing boobs at work over a small sink, three to four times a day, is not easy.)

This is what all nursing rooms should look like.

Gentian Violet:
My friend mentioned something called gentian violet. After doing some brief research on it, I tracked some of it down at a local pharmacy (after calling about 10 different places). I also used this on my daughter mouth in case she had thrush (although she only exhibited signs for about 3-4 days and that was a few weeks earlier).

The stuff is messy and really odd looking – your baby's entire mouth is completely purple.

After bath-time I placed some in Charlotte’s mouth and then nursed so we both got the benefits. I only did this for about 3 days because you’re not supposed to use it for a long duration.

Bra Burning:
Ok, I didn’t burn bras but I diligently washed all of my bras in super hot-hot scorching water.  This did result in me having to say RIP to one bra.

Took The Offensive:
I took probiotics every morning and of course kept taking vitamin D3 (5,000 IUs daily).

Enlisted Heavy Hitter:
I eventually ended up getting a clotrimazole cream which is just a regular antifungal cream you get at the drug store…not very natural, but I was forced to play dirty.

After about 4 days, things were getting much better and the pain was subsiding a bit (although I’m not sure if they could have gotten any worse...).  After about a week and a half, I was joyful that I was determined and stubborn enough to stick it through – my supply was coming back and things were becoming normal again.

I still occasionally have supply issues, but I think every mother should expect to go through that (if you never have this issue then, again, feel very blessed).

In my experience with thrush, I had to adjust numerous things to tackle the symptoms and the core of what was wrong – of course, I could have always quit breastfeeding. Even though that was the quickest and easiest solution, that was never an option for my daughter or myself.  

Now when I think of the horrific pain and the unpleasant experience, I think how it has the potential to help another mothers. A large part of me is grateful for the time I spent overcoming such a terrible obstacle – I’m glad I stuck it out AND WON!

Those that conquer, endure.

Resources about thrush:


  1. Yikes. I've dealt with a very painful inadequate latch for the first month, 2 bouts of mastitis, dairy intolerance, a nursing strike & supply issues with my second baby(now 14 months & still nursing) and I thought that was pretty rough. This sounds like it might top it all! Good for you for fighting through it and doing what you feel is best for your baby and yourself.

    1. Thanks for the comment ; )

      I'll have to check out your blog!


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