[Note: I am not a health care practitioner, I'm a breastfeeding mom with many years of experience who is sharing her own story, and this blog post should not be construed as medical advice. If you are breastfeeding and think you and your baby may have a yeast infection, please seek the advice of a health care professional or La Leche League leader.]
In addition to that disclaimer, I also urge you to get some professional advice if you suspect yeast in order to get an official diagnosis. If the real source of your breastfeeding pain is poor latch, for instance, and you overlook it, your problems will only compound. Since I’ve struggled with yeast infection while breastfeeding in the past, and have counseled many women in person and online about this topic, I know what to look for and feel comfortable diagnosing myself.
This momma should have known better.
While I still suspect that my little one has a mild tongue tie, I don’t think it’s bad enough to cause the pain I’ve been having. I’ve also had several other symptoms that looking back, were probably yeast but I didn’t put two and two together until recently.
Itchy Boobs. Yes, I’m confessing to the internets (all in the name of science and helping other mommas!) that my chesticles have been itching badly on and off for weeks. I chalked this up to pregnancy, with hormones and hot weather and skin that is growing and stretching.
Sore Throat. Yeast lives in our throats just like it lives in our sinuses and other… um… mucus membranes. I’ve had a mildly scratchy, sore throat for about 2 weeks and figured it was allergies or the change of weather or just being a little rundown postpartum. Given the other symptoms though, it’s probably yeast.
Gassy, Fussy Baby. I think the yeast infection is causing Baby Victoria to have fussy periods. She also has the characteristic white patches on her tongue and lips and the insides of her cheeks. If these don’t wipe away, it’s thrush (yeast infection in the mouth).
Yeast infections in general are very common in hot, humid, moldy areas like summer in the Southeast. And since milk loves sugar, it likes to hang out in sweet places. Warm, sweet, damp… well that pretty much describes the inside of a breastfeeding mom’s BRA in the summertime! It’s a perfect environment for yeast overgrowth.
I started my own personal Yeast Beast Protocol this morning in order to beat this thing.
Yeast can be VERY stubborn so you have to attack it from multiple sides. You have to STARVE it as well as KILL it. You also have to treat yourself for two weeks AFTER the symptoms disappear to make sure you’ve eliminated it in your gut.
Here’s what I’m doing.
STARVE THE YEAST:
Since yeast loves sugar, I’m cutting all sugar out of my diet until baby’s and my symptoms disappear. This includes alcohol. (I don’t drink often, but I do enjoy the occasional half glass of wine with dinner.)
I’m also taking probiotics three times a day. Probiotics keep the yeast that naturally occurs in our guts and on our skin in check. (I took probiotics while I was pregnant, but should have kept it up during the postpartum period.)
KILL THE YEAST:
Grapefruit Seed Extract, in capsule form, 1 three times a day. GSE is a powerful antifungal and is regarded as safe for breastfeeding moms and is recommended by many breastfeeding experts. Some people use it, diluted, on their nipples but I am not doing so.
Coconut Oil. Ah, just another reason to love coconut oil! At least one study showed that coconut oil kills candida yeast dead. (And if you Google “coconut oil and yeast” you’ll find hundreds of great articles on exactly how and why coconut oil is effective against yeast.) I already cook with it and take an occasional spoonful straight up, but now I’m taking 1 Tablespoon three times a day.
I’m also putting some straight on my nipples and under my breasts. It’s no big deal if she gets a little of it in her mouth, but I do try to apply it inbetween feedings. It feels so soothing instantly, and will help kill the yeast on my skin. (If she were older and on solids I would feed it to her too.)
Oregano Oil: Oregano oil is discouraged during breastfeeding because it is so potent and nobody has studies its effects on the nursing couple. Also, oregano oil can lower milk supply. However, I AM using it as a throat gargle. Since I’m not swallowing it, the amount that I’ll actually ingest would be miniscule. Oregano oil is VERY effective for sore throats of all kinds, as well as colds and flus. I like Oreganol.
Hydro-C: I have mentioned this supplement before because I use it to stay regular. It was a Godsend during my pregnancy! (It’s not a laxative. If you want to learn more about it, go here.) I’m using it now because it has high doses of a very easily assimilated Vitamin C for immunity. And since yeast can cause digestive disturbances, it will help with that too.
GI Recovery: Contains FOS, which feeds good bacteria in the gut and starves the bad.
Vinegar: To use in the final rinse in the laundry, for bras, nursing pads, my undies (I don’t have any symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection, but just in case….) and baby’s diapers.
I’ll report back in a week to let you know how all this is working. I suffered terribly with yeast (and so did my baby!) after my first birth. I went undiagnosed for a long time because I didn’t know what I didn’t know… but finally I got in touch with a La Leche Leader who helped me tremendously. I used a few of the allopathic remedies like Gentian Violet, Diflucan and Nystatin… all of which I hated because of their side effects and would not use again! It was natural remedies that made me heal and feel better.
This baby reminds me of my oldest in personality. She nurses ALL THE TIME just like he did, needs several burpings per feeding, has a hard time handling a fast flow of milk and she has an evening fussy time. She cannot be put down (my sister calls it the “Put Down Countdown”, meaning you can put the baby down and barely begin counting before baby starts protesting!) and needs constant holding. (The only difference is, this baby sleeps very well at night for which I am extremely thankful!)
I wonder if some of these symptoms are due to yeast bothering her? We’ll see.
I wrote more about my experience with breastfeeding and yeast infection 4 years ago here on this blog. There is a LOT of wisdom and great advice in the comments too.
Have you struggled with yeast beast? How did you handle it?