Friday, February 27, 2009

Yeast Infections: Info for Nursing Moms and Women in general

I have a few friends who are new moms or will be soon and so I wanted to turn an old email into a post for easy reference. I send this info out to every new mom (at least, when I remember, I do). I've also had occasion to refer to it several times for friends with yeast infections that aren't nursing or pregnant as well. It's basically a compilation of weeks of research on the pain I was having while nursing Judah during his first few months of life. After a ridiculously easy time nursing Sofi, Judah's nursing issues were quite a shock. Read on...

As some of you know, Judah and I have been dealing with some issues in our breastfeeding journey. We recently finally pinpointed the cause of the gas/pain/bad latch habits/etc that have been plaguing us. We both seem to have contracted a systemic yeast infection. Having gone through over a month of all this mess before figuring out what was wrong, I wanted to give you all a "heads up" about yeast infections-- how to recognize the early symptoms and how to treat it before you end up with all the trouble we've had. All of this info is stuff I've gleaned from internet research and talking to midwives and lactations consultants. I've included some links to the sites I found at the end of this email, in case anyone's interested.

Some interesting facts about yeast:

All humans have harmless amounts of yeast (actually a fungus) in their bodies. It tends to live in the mouth, bowels, skin, and, in women, the vagina — basically it thrives in warm, wet environments

It is only when the yeast overgrows that it becomes a problem. As pregnancy progresses, a woman is more likely to have an overgrowth of yeast. At birth a vaginal overgrowth of yeast can be transferred to the baby, and the baby can end up with thrush (an oral yeast infection).

Babies get yeast infections easily since their immune systems are not fully developed

When a woman is breastfeeding, she can get a yeast infection on her nipples and sometimes even inside her breasts.

Breast or nipple yeast is rarely a problem for the nonlactating women. However, in a breastfeeding woman, the change from a dry to a wet atmosphere can create favorable conditions for yeast overgrowth.

Diagnosing Yeast Infections:

White patches in baby's mouth: This is the most commonly known manifestation of a yeast infection. HOWEVER, not all yeast infections will include this symptom. In our case, Judah's white patches were all under his tongue and weren't visible until the infection grew up and out over his lower lip. Some babies never get the patches at all.

Nipple pain: Okay, let's talk about nipple pain. This is NOT the normal soreness of skin and tissue that goes along with "getting used to nursing", or even the more severe pain of a bad latch. We're talking intense pain here. It's been described as "glass being ground into my nipples". To me it felt like someone was sandpapering my nipples as he nursed. In addition to the surface pain, there is often a deep muscles pain--extending even into the back and shoulders. Sometimes it feels like a pulling sensation, deep in the breast tissue. Here's what really sets it apart from other nursing issues: it will hurt even when you're not nursing. You'll be walking along, minding your own business and then suddenly it feels like someone just knifed you in the breast. This kind of pain is never caused by normal nursing or even the worst of latch problems. It means a yeast infection that has spread to your milk ducts and it needs to be addressed immediately (if not sooner). Another dead giveaway is if the pain reduces throughout the feeding. Latch pain will not decrease as you nurse--it gets worse the longer the baby mangles your nipples.

Dry, shiny nipples:
Basically that says it all. My nipples looked like they had vasoline spread on them and they were bright pink--not the normal brownish pink of the rest of the areola.

Open sores on nipples: This one's a bit tricky. Open sores can be caused by a Y.I. or they can also cause one in turn. If you have open sores that you know are caused by a latch problem, watch out! you might be at risk for a yeast outbreak. If you have developed open sores without dealing with a latch problem, they are probably being caused by a Y.I.

Excessive gas in mother or baby: Now we all know that babies get gas. It's a fact of life. But if you notice that you are feeling gassy as well--especially if it's mostly in the evenings and doesn't seem to change if you modify your diet to exclude gassy foods--you should suspect a yeast infection is the cause.

Baby throwing up: Again, spitting up is a fact of life for babies, but in this case we're talking major stuff. Judah threw up chunks of cheesy stuff the size of the end of my thumb! Not pretty--somewhat disturbing--definitely yeast.

Weird nursing habits in baby: A baby with a sore mouth from yeast will often not feed well, coming off and on throughout the feeding, sometimes with a clicking/ sucking sound. Judah was always fussing through feedings--pulling the nipple, shaking his head and that weird clicking noise...

The Diaper Rash From Hell: Again, we're not talking about a normal diaper rash here. This might include multiple red bumps, pus-filled bumps, or a scaling pattern on the infected skin. In addition, the rash may extend along the pubic area and onto the lower part of the abdomen. Another big clue: A yeast rash tends to hang around for more than two days and doesn't respond to any traditional diaper rash treatments. It also usually shows up in the skin folds of the groin area.

Roving Pain: Another way to distinguish Y.I. pain from other nursing issues is that it may affect one breast, then move to the other--and back and forth several times. If you notice that one breast is more painful and then a few days later it's the other breast that hurts worse, it's probably a Y.I.

Treatment Options:

Okay, I'm no physician, so this is no substitute for consulting a professional (which I highly recommend--midwife preferably, so you can get info on the natural treatments), but here's what I've had recommended to me by a couple of people and a bunch of websites. I've listed things in order of severity and potency. If you catch the infection soon enough, the vinegar rinse might be enough. If the thing's been going on for a month or more (me!!), you'll have to move on to the Caprylic Acid and the Poke Root.

Vinegar Rinse: Dab a vinegar and water solution on your nipples after every feeding. I also have been putting vinegar in Judah's bath because he's broken out in yeast in all his cute little fat rolls. The vinegar changes the pH of your skin enough to kill the yeast topically.

Baking Soda paste: Same thing as the vinegar rinse--same effect on the pH

Pro-Biotic Complex
(baby can take this, too)
Caprylic Acid
Poke Root

Ask a midwife or doctor for dosage recommendations for all of the above.

In addition the following things were recommended:

Boil or bleach all bras, shirts, towels, etc (anything that touches your nipples) daily

Bra-less is best since it allows the maximum of air-flow

Swab your breasts with a vinegar and water solution after each feeding

Boil everything that comes in contact with babies mouth daily and replace all pacifiers weekly.

Sterilize the tub with bleach after each bath

Please forward this email to anyone you think might be interested.

Good luck and I hope none of you ever need this info!!



Denise said...

Thanks for sharing this Lisi, I have wondered sometimes if Elyana had thrush since diaper rash seems to come and go & I did not expect it with cloth diapers & with how frequently I feel I change her. Anyway, she definitely doesn't, but I am glad to have this for reference. thank you for sharing!!

Herb of Grace said...

So glad she doesn't have it! I did wonder when I read your post a while back, but it seemed like you were pretty sure it was an infection.

canningmama said...

Have you checked out the site below?? It's enough to make your head spin!!