Pain is a theme in breastfeeding that every mama knows well; sore nipples, poor latch, mastitis, clogged ducts, being pinched or bitten, the discomfort of letdown or just plain “full and sore” all terribly common things in the reality of breastfeeding.
I was blessed with a babe with a great latch and zero pain problems minus the odd clogged duct. My heart felt for friends who got mastitis or had cracked and bleeding nipples. It wasn’t until Ransom was 8 months old that I got my turn to taste the pain. By this time I thought we were in the clear and that no troubles could possibly come up now and I planned to breastfeed for as long as Ransom showed interest. In January my nipples seemed to become ‘dry’ and leave deep cracks around the base of my nipples. I assumed it was just dry skin, as my hands were in a similar state thanks to the winter weather.
I dealt with the pain and discomfort of Ransom’s nursing for a few weeks until it became unbearable. It felt like a small sharp needle deep inside the breast moving ever so slowly from the back towards the nipple. And while Ransom was nursing it felt like ten thousand needles sticking into my nipple all at once. Hands down I would rather give birth than experience that pain again. I would cringe during nursing sessions, cry, hold my breath and rock back and forth like a traumatized child.
I told my friend and doula all about what was going on and after a short series of questions she deduced that I had Candida. I immediately googled it, read the info from the Newman Clinic’s website and filtered through all my breastfeeding books on how to get rid of it. That night I sent my husband out for gentian violet and thus began another breastfeeding battle.
There was one thing that baffled me though, Candida always went hand in hand with Thrush in babies yet Ransom did not show any of the typical signs.
After several appointments with various health care providers (a walk-in clinic, nurse practitioners, a naturopathic doctor, and lactation consultants) and several rounds of various treatments including;
- $600 in Fluconazole (the drug most commonly used for Candida), an all-purpose nipple ointment compound
- grapefruit seed extract
- and even a super intense 8 week diet (Dysbiosis Diet) that had me eating nothing but veggies, beans and brown rice
I still had Candida and Ransom still didn’t have Thrush symptoms.
The Fluconazole had worked to take away the worst of the pain thankfully and I was grateful to have the pain behind me, but unsatisfied with the lack of understanding why the Candida was not going away and why Ransom was never showing Thrush symptoms. The treatments seemed to be doing next to nothing. For a few days I would be free and clear and then overnight the symptoms would begin to reappear.
By the beginning of April I had had enough of the treatments, the discomfort and the confusion and decided it was time again for a trip to the Newman Clinic.
They were just as baffled as me. They reaffirmed that it was Candida and that Ransom did not have thrush. So what was going on!?
And then like a lightbulb it clicked. The lactation consultant looked at me and asked, “Has your period started back yet?” It had. After a little back dating we traced it all back to January and the re-starting of my regular cycle. Hormones were throwing off the pH balance in my body while trying to restart the system, allowing the Candida to run rampant and unchecked, hence why Ransom was never showing signs of thrush. The problem was in me all along, not in the breastfeeding.
I was again directed to take grapefruit seed extract, probiotics, and use the all-purpose nipple ointment when necessary. However, by now the damage had been done. The nursing sessions we had had during the day were long behind us and only the night time nursing remained.
I was committed to breastfeeding Ransom as long as he remained interested, which I always assumed would be well after his first birthday. But as quickly as our breastfeeding relationship started, it was over. Simply one night as we crawled into bed together for our nightly nursing session before sleep, instead of “helping himself” to milk, he simply laid his head down on my chest and fell asleep. Not once since has he pulled on my shirt or cried for milk.
Candida did us in, and though I am still dealing with it (yes, even still) I am not bitter or resentful that breastfeeding ended sooner than I wanted. Instead I am happy that it seemed to end with zero stress or discomfort for Ransom. He still snuggles on my chest at night as he falls asleep, a simple reminder of the nursing sessions we used to have. I do miss breastfeeding and I wish I had known to savour that last moment together. But in the end I am content and proud at what we accomplished and overcame as a breastfeeding family and you can’t ask for more than that.
I hope our story will encourage you and instruct you. Education and support are your best allies if you desire to breastfeed. Your battle may be more or less difficult than ours, but no matter what you face if you educated yourself and surround yourself with a network of support you will come out swinging with healthy babe in arms.
Thank-you so much, Naomi, for sharing your journey through breastfeeding. I know that your story will inspire and encourage many as they seek to give the best to their babes as well.
PS: Please note that Naomi is currently away on a road trip with her babe and hubby, and will respond to your comments when she returns in a few days. Thanks for sharing in the conversation!