Muva’s Breastfeeding Journey: Thrush and Nipple Shields

Photo by CWebb Photography

I wanted to quit breastfeeding so many times. I just couldn’t, and I’m so glad that I didn’t. In leu of World Breastfeeding Week, I am telling my super painful, realistic, yet hopeful, nursing story. It involves yeast, Red-Hot Cheetos, and love.

My nipples were red. Rylan’s dad described them as red Flaming Hot Cheetos. Rewind a few weeks back, I’m in the hospital with Rylan and a lactation consultant (LC). She shoves Rylan’s mouth into my boob, hamburger style. Her latch hurt so bad. Of course, the LC said that it shouldn’t hurt at all. It did. It felt like she was biting me. That lactation consultant sent in another lactation consultant to help me out. The pain persisted. I also saw a nurse. Then the lactation consultant visited me again. They couldn’t understand why the pain was there.

After about 3 weeks, I visit a WIC lactation consultant, which is amazingly free and amazingly helpful! She tells me to stop breast pumping in order to regulate milk according to baby. She helps me with different nursing styles. After a few tries, I feel ok. That night of breastfeeding with no consultant and no nurse, I feel scared. Each feeding brought on fear of pain. It always hurt. I would go each day scared of the next feeding until I found help from an object: a nipple shield!

I purchase the nipple shield from Wal-Mart and its glorious! It stops intense pain by providing a plastic barrier. Without this shield, I would have quit nursing so quick. It still hurt to nurse but the shield made it more manageable. It’s like the difference between being bitten on the skin and being bitten on the skin, covered in rubber or tough plastic.

After being fed up with pain and frustrated that I had to feed my baby through a piece of plastic, around 3 months, I join a local “Mama’s Milk Club.” The mamas there feel my pain, literally! They had other issues like not making enough milk and bloody nipples from bites. I am glad that those weren’t my issues, to say the least. But, I still had a problem: painful latch. The LC in charge of the class helps me out. She does the “shove the baby’s mouth into your breast like a hamburger” method. After she did that, I felt no pain at all. It was absolutely amazing! She angled Rylan’s face with her nose and chin pointing up so that she would get the most amount of boob. Thus, leading to a great latch. I began using the nipple shield less and less.

Fast forward back to the flaming hot nipples.

I remember one long and excruciating night.

This night, I felt pain worse than contractions. Yes, I said that right. It was terrible shooting pain in my breast. Those red-hot nipples were in trouble!  It started as a small and uncomfortable feeling in my breast. Then that feeling got sharp. Sharp as a knife stabbing at the inside of my breast tissue. It got worse and worse as I nursed little newborn Rylan. I started to cry painfully.

Rylan’s dad told me to stop feeding until the pain subsided. I cried, “I can’t, I read that nursing will make it better.” It didn’t. I got the phone and dialed the nurse on call at the hospital. We spoke for a few minutes as I am crying over the phone. There was basically nothing they could do over the phone to make it better. I just needed to wait it out until it stops or the ibuprofen kicks in. After about 40 minutes, the pain ended. A few days before, I noticed that Rylan’s tongue was white. Her white tongue matched with my painful breast meant one thing: thrush. Thrush is an infection caused by the candida fungus, which is yeast.I basically had a yeast infection inside of my breast and Rylan inside her mouth. ugh. It was definitely uncomfortable. We were both given Nystatin, the yeast killer, to apply on the infected areas.

Sugar feeds yeast, so I cut out sugar until it got better. The night of the ultimate pain, I had about 4 pieces of pie. To this day, I am so uneasy about eating too much pie, or any type of sugar-based product.

I was also prescribed all-purpose nipple cream by my midwife. This was a lifesaver! It numbs your nipples so that you can’t feel the pain, if any, in them. Wow, I’m glad I got that! It’s also ok to nurse baby while it is applied, which means no washing your nipples in between nursing. It took about 3 months for the thrush to clear up.

You think I would’ve stopped breastfeeding when that painful night happened, but I don’t let down that easy. Trust me, I was ready to stop, but some encouragement from my also breastfeeding sister, kept me going, like always. In the beginning, she told me that the latch pain was nothing and would usually stop in a few months. When I got thrush, she also encouraged me to keep going and told me how the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh that obstacle. She was right.

We caught thrush a second time, 2 weeks ago. This time, I knew the routine. I called the doctor and I  got a prescription of Nystatin for Rylan and me. I cut out excess sugar. In about a month, the thrush was gone. At any sign of pain in my breast, I would rush and apply Nystatin. I’m not sure if that did anything, but I never did relive that first painful night again.

We are still going strong with nursing! Rylan even has 6 teeth now and there’s no end in sight! She did, though, attempt to bite me once. I looked at her firmly, quietly, and calmly, and said, “No”. She understood what that meant, cried her little heart out, and only did it once more, months later, after that. The second time, I didn’t nurse her for almost 30 minutes. She never bit again.

Today, Rylan is a bouncy one year old and still breastfeeding almost 10 times a day! Yes, that’s a lot. She’s a hungry baby and pacifies on me. Through that, we bond, although there are some downfalls.

I have lost 12 pounds and gained some tough nipples.

Still, we persist. I have decided to do baby led weaning, although I am now leaning towards ending nursing soon. Baby led weaning is all about following baby’s cues for weaning.  We will gradually stop this breastfeeding journey when Rylan is officially ready. Now, I have to say, this is on one condition, that it ends before 3 1/2 years. After that, I will definitely be ready to end it.

Breastfeeding has protected my baby girl from numerous illnesses. This is my main reason for continuing the journey. I am kind of feeling like I want my body back though. Nursing mamas must eat almost 700 more calories a day while breastfeeding. That’s how many calories breastfeeding burns! I have always been a light eater, and as a result, I haven’t been able to keep up with the loss of calories. I have lost enough weight to hear, “OMG you are just too skinny” more than once a day. This kills me.

Before being pregnant, I was about 110 pounds. A week after having Rylan, I went right back to 110 lbs. Then I gradually went to 98 lbs. 98! After breastfeeding is over, I hope to go back to 110! This is one way I’ll get my body back. The other way involves what I wear.

Breastfeeding means that while we are out, I must wear clothes that are easily accessible to Rylan. If she gets hungry or fussy while we are out, I whip out the boob. To do this, I have to wear V-Necks or tops that are easy to pull down. Going back to high neck shirts is something I miss a bit.

All in all, I am super glad that breastfeeding worked for Rylan and I. Even through the thrush, pumping 3 times in a 6 hour shift at work, and the other “downfalls”. When Rylan awakes at night, I don’t have to go into the kitchen to fix a bottle. Nope. Just whip the boob out and go back to sleep. There isn’t a pile of bottles to clean. There isn’t a cost of formula to upkeep. When she’s sick, scared, or just want to feel secure, my breast is there to comfort her. The bonding through nursing is unbelievable.

There are times when Rylan’s bright face will look up at me and smile while breastfeeding. At times like that, I know I made the right decision to keep it going. It’s YEAR ONE of nursing and I look forward to at MOST, 2 more amazing years or nursing little Miss Rylan!

2 thoughts on “Muva’s Breastfeeding Journey: Thrush and Nipple Shields”

  • Thanks for this post, it has encouraged me to keep going. My daughter is 6-month and andnIce never really enjoyed breastfeeding because of on-going pain. I have had mastitis(right breast) and multiple plugged ducts(right breast) which have made me almost quit! I am suspecting thrush now b/c the pain persists but it comes and goes and my daughter doesn’t have the white patches in her mouth so I’m not so sure. The issues have only been one side(right breast), I’ve never had any issues in the left side, which has been my saving grace. Had the pain been both sides, I would have quit a long time ago. Latch/positioning may be the issue here, but I don’t know how to fix it.
    It’s just encouraging to read someone else’s story and know that it is possible to overcome the challenges and actually enjoy breastfeeding. Thank you!

    • Hey! Thank you for reading my story and sharing your own. I am glad it gave you a bit of hope. If you suspect thrush, I would say to call your midwife or Dr. and ask for Nystatin to be prescribed asap. Your baby doesn’t have to have thrush (white patches) in order for you to have it. In fact, you could spread it to your baby. Aw man, you just reminded me that I forgot to talk about that too! I’ve had plugged ducts too! Sorry to hear about the mastisis. I know someone who dealt with that also. Just know that breastfeeding is hard but the benefits outweigh the current obstacles. IT GETS EASIER!!!!! You are already awesome for going through so much, keep it up mama!

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