Let’s Talk About Boobies

I have to talk about the boobs. AGAIN.

And I really don’t want to talk about the boobs. Again.

But it’s really all I can think about lately. I have some decisions to make about breastfeeding and I need to vent.

It seems that I have thrush. Again.

To those who don’t know about thrush, it’s an annoying issue with breastfeeding mothers. Basically, it’s an overgrowth of common yeast found in all of us. In non-lactating people, it lives in harmony with other organisms in your body. Things can get out of hand, however, if this yeast is allowed to live in warm, moist (oh, I so hate that word) environments. Hence, a nursing mother’s breast and a baby’s mouth are perfect breeding grounds for the yeast. Then begins the classic passing-it-back-and-forth game between the mom and baby.

It doesn’t kill you, it doesn’t make you systemically ill, but it hurts to nurse. Like really hurts. Besides the pain, your nipples turn a lovely shade of angry fuchsia and something as pleasant as a breeze blowing will make you wince.

And how do you get this so-called thrush you ask? Well, that’s the best part! Although there are many culprits, the most common is taking antibiotics. Remember that little bout of mastitis I told you about? Well, looks like the antibiotics I took to clear that up probably caused this. Eye for an eye, I guess.


Breastfeeding is hard.

I never thought these ailments would be the end of my breastfeeding days. I love breastfeeding. I can NOT emphasize that enough. I was one of the lucky ones who never had problems with latching on, had plenty of milk, etc. I love the fact that my thriving 90th percentile son is solely nourished by me. I love the special moments when he looks up at me and smiles or the way he squeezes my hand while he’s feeding. Oh Christ, here come the waterworks. It’s more than the breast milk. It’s the connection.

I am so sick of fretting over this.

I have done more research on these breastfeeding issues than a graduate student would do for his/her thesis. I have contacted professionals, spent hours reading medical journals and it just makes me more frustrated.

Here is what the La Leche League suggests doing if you have recurrent thrush:

1. Avoid sugar, including fruit and artificial sweeteners, anything with yeast including breads, anything fermented, like wine and vinegar, and dairy products, except yogurt with live cultures. Cut back on high carbohydrate foods.
2. Set your dishwasher to heat the water hot enough to kill yeast on glasses, dishes and utensils for oral yeast in family members using these dishes. If you hand wash, dip the dishes and utensils in a bleach solution first.
3. Eliminate the use of Natural B vitamins such as Brewer’s Yeast for a time.
4. Brush your tongue as well as your teeth.
5. Replace toothbrushes regularly. Boil or soak in a 10% bleach solution after each bout of thrush.
6. Disinfect dental or orthodontic appliances each and every time they are removed from the mouth.
7. Discard roll-on or solid deodorant after the initial yeast outbreak has cleared.
8. Use regular, rather than antibacterial soap. Killing bacteria can make yeast overgrowth more likely.
9. Check for yeast growing in or under/around finger or toenails, under arms or breasts, in the groin or baby’s diaper area. Does baby suck thumb, finger or knuckles? Check them carefully. Wash baby’s hands frequently. Also check the finger and toenail beds and where skin touches skin for the entire family.
10. Take precautions to avoid the spread of yeast with family underwear, bras and towels.
11. Wear pantyhose with a cotton crotch, cut the crotch out of the panty or wear thigh-high hose.
12. Avoid synthetic underwear and tight jeans.
13. Change quickly out of sweaty exercise clothes or wet swimsuits.
14. Notice any correlation between your menstrual cycle and thrush reoccurrence, particularly a few days before menses starts.
15. Ask your partner to be checked for a yeast infection.
16. Wash your hands every time you use the toilet, handle your breasts or milk, put your fingers in your own or your baby’s mouth, change diapers (nappies).
17. Treat every single thing possible that you put in your mouth or your children put in theirs to kill yeast.
18. Disinfect inhalers or breathing treatment machines for asthma or other conditions between uses.
19. Replace makeup after clearing up a yeast infestation. Yeast can live on lipsticks, lip and eyeliners, eye shadows, mascaras, foundations and powders. Disinfect or replace makeup applicators.
20. Check everyone in the family for cracks in the corner of the mouth.
21. Have a veterinarian check animals for yeast. Pets with fur can harbor yeast, particularly in their ears. Feathered pets can have yeast overgrowths, too.

I ask you, when is it just TOO MUCH? If I spent the time doing all of these things, plus the anti-fungal cream, the vinegar rinses, treating the baby, I wouldn’t have any time to spend with my child.

Enough is enough.

But then begins the issue with formula. What is deterring me from using formula? I was a formula-fed baby and I think I turned out pretty decent, thank you very much.

Is it what I hear CONSTANTLY from the media and breastfeeding organizations about breastfeeding being superior? Or is it my inherent knowledge as a mother as to what’s best for my baby?

I know what’s best for my baby. A mutually satisfactory and healthy breastfeeding relationship. But we don’t have that anymore. What we do have is a lot of frustration, crying and worry on the mother’s part.

I’m at a loss.

  1. Jennifer

    November 3, 2006 at 8:35 am

    I had difficulty breastfeeding both my girls and at about 2 months switched to formula with both. I’m now pregnant with #3 and have thought about going straight to formula from the get go. BUT…it’s just not that cut and dry is it? I just reached 12 weeks of pregnancy and I’ve been fretting about this since I found out I was pregnant 4 weeks ago. This is the advice I keep trying to convince myself of: You need to do what works for you and your overall family. If it doesn’t feel right anymore, change it.

    I hope that you’re able to find a solution that works for you and that you can be happy with. I really do understand the struggle of changing to formula.

    Another thought that comes to mind for me is that this is a nutrient that is only needed for their first year of life. When your child is 3 years old and thriving, are you really going to be stressing over whether or not you breastfed or used formula?

    If you would like to talk more feel free to email me. It’s tough being a mom sometimes.

  2. rebecca

    November 3, 2006 at 8:45 am

    Whoorl, I agree with you 100% – breastfeeding is HARD. I didn’t have thrust or mastitis, but I cried in pain almost every time I nursed my baby for the first several weeks, despite visiting multiple lactation consultants who assured me I was doing everything right. I often wondered how it was possible that the human race had sustained itself for so long if nursing was so hard.

    So I can’t, and won’t, tell you what to do. You’ve obviously done your homework. I think it’s amazing that you have gotten this far given what you’ve had to go through. I’m proud of you! Just keep in mind that there is more to being a mother than breastfeeding. It’s important for you to enjoy your time with him too.

  3. Heather

    November 3, 2006 at 8:57 am

    I hate to hear that you’re having all this frustration in your life. I had to stop breatfeeding at 2 months do to insufficient supply and it was HARD, but we got through it. If it means that much to you to breatsfeed Anders than keep it up. The to do list seems lengthy and maybe a tad overdone, but you can pick out the important points that affect your routine. And hey, #11 could be fun for you and D. You’ll get through this. Gotta go, baby crying.

  4. Kim

    November 3, 2006 at 9:05 am

    Oh, whoorl. I cried right along with you through this post. I feel your pain – well your emotional pain anyway. I’m in the same place because of such low supply. At what point do I just give in to make everyone’s life a little easier but mine with a lot more guilt and feeling of failure? I hope you find the right answer for you, it’s never easy. I’m sure you’ve heard it plenty – look how far you were able to make it, good for you, especially with what you’ve had to go through. It sure doesn’t make you feel any better or make it any easier though. But you know what’s best for you and your little one and you know when to call it good. If you tried those million and one suggestions from LLL, you wouldn’t even have time to breathe let alone time to spend with your baby. Good luck, girl. I know this has been the hardest part for me so far, I’m sure it’s up there for you as well.

  5. kimmer

    November 3, 2006 at 9:06 am

    I nurse once in the morning just to pass the antibodies and the rest of nourishment comes from formula. It makes it so much easier for me. One less thing to stress out about when you go back to work, too.

  6. Erin

    November 3, 2006 at 9:06 am

    I had a friend with this problem and nothing she did solved it until she added formula into the mix. I know the two of them – mom and baby – were always a dark purple colour because gentian violet helped. What she ultimately did was keep up the routine with the washing of hands and generally disinfecting things that make sense to disinfect – utensils, cups, etc. She nursed half the time and went with formula the rest of the time. The good news is it is not all or nothing. Just the break for a few hours a day helped her with the pain, allowed some time for cleaning up and breaking the cycle of the yeast passing and also gave her husband some bonding time. Her son was formula fed in the evenings and early morning when her husband was home and she nursed throughout the day for the most part. She was able to nurse her son until his first birthday.

  7. Rachel

    November 3, 2006 at 9:13 am

    Ow! My boobs are having sympathy pains for you all the way across the country. Whatever you decide to do is going to be 100% right. That list is a tad daunting, but maybe you can pick and choose? I don’t boil or sterilze ANYTHING and Jillian seems to be quite all right with that.

    Perhaps you could dip Anders in vinegar?

  8. Janice

    November 3, 2006 at 9:29 am

    There is nothing wrong with formula feeding. Or is that totally out of the question? We formula fed our twins and life was EASY!! Just a thought.

  9. erin rae

    November 3, 2006 at 9:36 am

    While I do have boobies, I don’t have babies, so I won’t even try to make up some assvice…

    However, I am intrigued by the list of tips:

    “10. Take precautions to avoid the spread of yeast with family underwear, bras and towels.
    11. Wear pantyhose with a cotton crotch, cut the crotch out of the panty or wear thigh-high hose.”

    Does this mean that if you go with crotchless panties that sharing them with the family is OK? Obviously we share towels, but ~family underwear~?

  10. SAJ

    November 3, 2006 at 9:40 am

    Awww. Whoorl. Man, I wish I had a magic wand that I could flick and make everything all better. We stopped by yesterday but I knocked really really lightly cause I had a gut feeling that you might be holed up in there feeding Anders. You’re the smartest mom I know. You make me tired just thinking of all the research you’ve done. When Anders gets big, I’m going to tell him how much you love him and how hard you tried to do everything perfect all the time. Which you are. You are a perfect mom.

  11. Carrie

    November 3, 2006 at 9:50 am

    There is another option. My baby is 2 months old. We weren’t able to work out the whole breastfeeding thing, so I have been pumping full time. She eats nothing but breast milk. For the cost of a couple months worth for formula you can get a nice electric double pump. My only complaint would be that it is time consuming, but worth it if this is the only way I can provide the benefits of breast milk. I still feel guilty sometimes that I wasn’t able to do it right, but, as my lactation consultant said, it’s not worth it if you’re going to be miserable. Good luck with whatever you decide.

  12. mar

    November 3, 2006 at 9:53 am

    Some people are just more prone to thrush, just like some are more prone to bronchitis, UTI’s, eczema, etc. It doesn’t have to be about something you’re doing wrong, etc. Sometimes it just is. It certainly has nothing to do with whether you are a good mom – as evidenced by the fact you are so worried about it!

    I had a problem with my oldest in that I had a bit of low supply. I had enough for most meal times, but I was working part time, and trying to pump enough to stock up for those times was impossible (because of the type of job I had, I couldn’t pump at work). I spent my off days nursing, then pumping, then nursing, then pumping – waking up in the middle of the night to pump, even though the baby slept through – it was a nightmare. I stressed about it constantly. Finally, I said – enough is enough. He formula fed when I wasn’t with him, and he breastfed when I was. I was a much more sane human being, and I’m sure that made me a better mom! As for my son – well, at age 10, he’s in 2 different gifted and talented programs at school (academic and art) and is a healthy, wonderful kid.

    Give yourself a break – a bottle or two of formula a day might be all you need to get over this. If/when that happens, you can go back to 100% breastfeeding – it’s not a one way street! But the guilt and stress doesn’t do you or Anders any good. Oh, and if you are concerned about constipation, you might try a low iron formula just to get him started. Good luck!

  13. margaret ann

    November 3, 2006 at 9:59 am

    Whoorl, hang in there! I think breastfeeding is great, but the La Leche league can be over the top…that list was ridiculous!! The good news is that whatever you decide, Anders has already had a lot(if not all) of the benefits that breastfeeding offers. Formula fed babies do great too. Especially if it keeps their mothers feeling sane.

  14. Alecia

    November 3, 2006 at 9:59 am

    I’m so sorry. I have a 3 week old and have been following your blog and preg all summer. I have no tips…just empathy and prayers for you both.

  15. Lisa

    November 3, 2006 at 11:21 am

    These decisions can seem so overwhelming when you’re going through them. The best advice that I can offer you is to just trust your instincts. And don’t be so hard on yourself. The decision may be tough but you’ll be relieved when you finally just take the step in the direction that you choose. You just have to do it and know that no matter what, you can’t go wrong with your decision.

    I nursed both of my kids but supplimented with formula from day one. Reason being was that I refused to pump (I don’t know how you Mom’s keep up with that on top of everything else!) but I also wanted my hubby to take part and give me the much needed reprieve. There were pros and cons to both and I’m sure you’ve already thought of them all. (nursing = immediate accessibility without the hassle of mixing and warming, etc. But oh the pain you can go through. Whereas, formula = additional help from the hubby and no boobie pain involved. But the drawbacks = mixing, heating bottles, stains from the formula on clothing and oh those God awful smelling burps!!)

    Just know that you can’t go wrong. Whatever you decide will be perfectly alright for you and Anders.

    And if you go the formula route, may I recommend Nestle Good Start. The price is good, it’s not as dark in color (less staining) and doesn’t smell quite as strong as the Similac’s and Enfamil’s.

    Good luck – I’ll be thinking of you!