I’m going to start out by saying thrush sucks. I’d use some stronger language but I don’t know who is reading this. First I should probably tell you what oral thrush is. Oral thrush is when the fungus Candida Albicans overgrows in your mouth. This fungus is there all the time and usually isn’t a problem. Thrush tends to effect those with a weakened or suppressed immune system – babies and the elderly for example. It’s pretty easily diagnosed and treated. However, if it remains untreated it can be difficult to get rid of. It can also hurt when eating or, for me, when nursing.
A simple way of telling if baby has thrush is to look in their mouth. If you see tiny white specs (usually on tongue or cheeks) they probably have thrush. I cannot stress this enough: DO NOT CHECK BABY RIGHT AFTER THEY ATE. They will have white specs in their mouth if you do this and you will waste your time going to the doctor. If you think you or your baby has thrush, please go in to see a doctor ASAP! If you are nursing, make sure to get a treatment plan for you as well. Otherwise you and baby will continue to pass thrush back and forth. Nobody wants that.
Alex and I have been working tirelessly on a nursing relationship. It didn’t work out with James and I was devastated. This time I wanted things to go differently (perhaps in another post I’ll go into the struggle I had with James but for now I want to try to keep this about thrush). So, you can understand my frustration when I saw those tiny white spots on Alex’s tongue and cheeks.
We got a prescription for nystatin. We were instructed to give Alex it orally and for me to rub some on my nipples. We were in prescription heaven. The pain was gone, Alex was nursing like a champ again, and the thrush seemed to be gone. As soon as we ran out of the prescription I immediately saw the white spots in his mouth again and my nipples killed. If you haven’t had thrush before, I’ll describe it as sharp pains radiating from your nipples. The tips can be red with white specs too. It’s easier to see thrush on the baby than it is on your nipples FYI. My first though was “damn it.” Followed by, now what? After some research and knowledge from when James had thrush I started a new treatment plan for us.
1. Gentian Violet – this stuff rocks. It is over the counter. So, you should be able to find it pretty much at any pharmacy. I found ours for about $3 at Walgreens. Essentially what you are doing is “painting” babies mouth with this stuff. I recommend using a q-tip. Dip it in the container, dab on a paper towel, then using what’s left on the q-tip to “paint” babies mouth. You do not want too much. With this stuff, a little goes a long way. If you are nursing, make sure to use it on yourself too. A key piece of advice: do not let baby swallow it. It won’t necessarily harm them, however when James had thrush the doctor used this on him. Before she could “paint” his mouth, he clamped down and sucked. She said it won’t harm him right before he projectile vomited all over her, 2 nurses, me, himself, the table, floor, and the opposite wall. Not saying this will for sure happen if you or your little one swallows it, just proceed with caution. Another thing to note: this stuff stains everything. Make sure you and baby are wearing something you don’t mind getting stained. It won’t come out of fabric and will take a while to come out of your skin too. It sucks but it’s the price you pay for something effective to get rid of thrush.
2. Probiotic – both you and baby can take a probiotic. This will help regulate/control/replace/etc. all the bacteria in your body. This will help aid preventing thrush from happening again.
3. Grapefruit Seed Oil – I found capsules at Walgreens for myself. They’re a bit expensive but again, they help with your immune system. Thus, helping prevent thrush from happening again.
Once I had my supplies for the treatment plan B, I could start focusing on the other things I needed to do to get rid of thrush.
1. Sterilizing pacis or bottles – pretty much anything that came in contact with baby’s mouth you want to sterilize. Boiling those suckers is the fastest and the best method. Have fun, it sucks.
2. If you’re nursing you need to sterilize your reusable nursing pads. I recommend talking to the manufacture of your nursing pads. Someone suggested boiling my nursing pads. However, I was smart and checked with the manufacture. In my particular case, if I were to boil them I would very simply put, ruin them. The fabric is not meant to withstand that amount of heat. I spent a lot of $ on those suckers. I would have been so mad at myself if I had ruined them. The manufacture suggested soaking in a 1:10 bleach:water mixture then washing in hot water and drying on hot. I personally switched to disposable nursing pads so I did not have to go through sanitizing my reusable nursing pads again. However, if you choose to continue using reusable nursing pads, make sure to sanitize them probably about once a day until the thrush is 100% gone.
3. If you use a pump, make sure to sanitize the parts for that as well. I don’t use a pump but I did use Milkies. So I sanitized that.
4. Sanitize anything that has come in contact with your nipples (if nursing) or babies mouth.
Sanitizing can take a long time and this is the second half of what makes thrush such a beast. It’s not fun and good old pain to do. However, you gotta do it if you don’t want thrush to come back. Luckily I am very stubborn and am not going to let thrush ruin Alex and my nursing relationship. However, I have no judgement and every bit of sympathy if someone did decide not to continue nursing during or after thrush. The pain of nursing while having thrush is pretty indescribable (I know I briefly described it but that doesn’t do it justice). I hope our experience with thrush helps someone else out.