Monday, September 19, 2011

Treating Thrush with Coconut Oil

Thrush is a yeast infection that a baby can get in their mouth and/or nursing mothers can get on their nipples.

I had a terrible time trying to defeat it.
But in the end coconut oil was what got me through.

Thrush can be horrible. 
Believe me, I know. Despite the fact that during my pregnancy I had decided I would not get thrush (ha ha I love all the ways my parenting ideas were proven ridiculous once reality set in), I literally battled it for months before I got it under control.

When I took J to a check up at 3 months, the pediatrician said she had thrush in her mouth.  I almost didn't believe her, it just looked like spit up spots stuck in there.  But I took her word for it and I immediately asked, "Do I need to do anything so I don't get it?" (I'm still irritated at her lackluster response.)  She barely told me, "If you see any on you, just put some Monistat on it."  (No directions on how often or anything.)  

Well, I had never seen thrush before that day so I was looking for white spots on me to match J's spots.
I never saw a single spot on me.  So no Monistat for me.  
And J's white spots went away with her medicine.  

Cut to a couple months later, I was nursing through excruciating pain.  It started when I noticed that my nipples were cracked, and I figured this was just a normal part of breastfeeding and that I just needed to work through it.  It got worse and worse, to the point where I told Blake, "If anything other than my baby were to hurt me like this, I would punch it in the face."  I was having to do deep breathing to get through nursing sessions.  And I even cried a time or two before I latched her on to the extra sore side because I was dreading the experience so much.  Nursing ended up being so painful that I wasn't letting down fully and I was getting clogged ducts up higher on my breast.  At this point, I was out of town and to my utter dismay I didn't have my pump with me, so I spent a good hour locked away in a room massaging the lump trying to hand express to relieve myself.  It was crazy.  
It was then that I realized something had to be wrong.  I knew when I got home I was heading straight to the lactation consultants.  

One look at me and the consultant said "Thrush."  
I was baffled.  
There was no white dots.  
She went on to explain that she could tell because my nipple was very pink and shiny (almost like it had a clear coat of nail polish on it.)  
I didn't notice pinkness, I mean isn't pink pretty normal for a nipple?  And the shiny, well they are wet all the time, it just seemed to go with the territory.  
But once I heard her tell me that and I looked more closely, yeah the top of the nipple itself was way more pink than even the rim of the nipple --- which was still much more pink than the areola.  And the shininess was there no matter how dry they were.  
If only I had known what I was looking for I could have gotten treatment a long time ago and not suffered so long!  

I also learned that day (much to my irritation) that anytime mother or baby has thrush, they both need to be treated until it goes away.  (Wish I had known that too, I might never have even gotten it in the first place!)  

So I got myself medicine and J some drops (again), and we worked at it.  
I washed everything I wore in hot water every time I wore it.  The days of wearing a bra for more than one day were over.  I cleaned J's toys with hydrogen peroxide.  Any pump parts were boiled, and I didn't freeze any milk (because only heat kills yeast, not cold.  So the milk could reinfect us.)  
I went through 3 kinds of creams, and two different two-week pill treatments for it.  It helped, I wasn't in terrible pain anymore, but I knew it was still there.  I was a bit sore no matter what I tried.  

At the same time, for other reasons (nutrition!) I was reading a nutrition book, and came across one sentence in the whole book that said coconut oil has anti-fungal properties.  I just spent the last few months putting anti-fungal cream on my boobs day in and day out, wiping it off to nurse all the time.  The word anti-fungal jumped out at me like a beacon.  

I was willing to try anything.  
We bought some coconut oil and I began to put it on every time I nursed and anytime I thought of it in between.  

I loved that I didn't need to worry if I nursed J with it still on.  It's not a poison concern (as some medicines are), it's just a natural oil.  
Well, like magic the thrush just seemed to fade away completely.  
I was so relieved.  FINALLY!  

So I just wanted to share this in case you find yourself in a similar situation.  
By all means, if you think you have thrush, be smarter than me and go see a doctor (or at least a lactation consultant) early and follow their advice.  I am sure with how intense my case seemed to be, their prescriptions were necessary.  But in addition you may want to start using coconut oil and maybe, like me, it will clear you up.  

I plan to use it next time we have a baby as a soothing cream right off the bat.  I'll keep lanolin on hand, but my go-to will be coconut oil.  With its moisturizing ability and its anti-fungal properties it's an awesome nursing companion.  

If you are like me and have no prior experience with coconut oil,
here are a few things to note.  
You can buy it in the grocery store --- it's most likely alongside the olive and vegetable oils --- but it comes in a jar, not a bottle.  

And that's because since coconut oil is from the tropics it becomes solid at temperatures under 76 degrees.  

It's actually a pretty amazing oil.  I use it as a face moisturizer all the time (and I have break out prone skin, but I think the fact that its antimicrobial actually keeps me from breaking out.)  

If you Google it up you can learn lots and lots of amazing things about it.  
I just read that it might possibly help you grow longer eyelashes!   
(Who knows, but it sounds pretty sweet!)  

So that's my story.  
I love coconut oil.

And Blake insisted on me saying it also makes for amazing stove top popcorn.


  1. Thanks for the info. I've never dealt with thrush thus far, but I'll definitely try coconut oil if I ever do. Ooh - and I second Blake's recommendation. It does make amazing stovetop popcorn!

  2. Wow, this is super helpful! I am ready to go buy some and use it as a moisterizor too. Paul will also appreciate Blake's suggestion. :)

  3. Thank you! I know this post is old but I'm going to try it as I'm having a heck of a time getting rid of mine and will try anything at this point! (nursing a two month old).

  4. How long did it take for the coconut oil to get rid of the thrush? I've read other articles saying that their infant developed thrush as well & that they used a cotton swab to apply to their infants mouth. Did you swab tour Childs mouth with the coconut oil as well?

    1. You know, I can not remember now how long it took. I had thrush for so long that it was just sort of becoming a way I felt. So it kinda just started slowly feeling back to normal after I started putting in the oil.
      I didn't swab out my baby's mouth -- but I did apply it to me before I nursed her, so it got in her mouth. Those articles are correct and you really should be treating both mother and child any time there is thrush because one can reinfect the other without curing both.
      I think I had the majority of my thrush cured with the prescriptions and that the coconut oil kinda just finished the job.
      With my second child, when I got thrush my midwife had me use gentian violet, and while its kinda inconvenient since it turns you and the baby purple where you apply it. It worked better than anything I had tried with my first child. (I did put coconut oil on me in between uses of gentian violet just to be extra sure!)
      Hope that helps some.

    2. This post was started a long time ago, but still comes up when you Google coconut oil and thrush. Just a heads up for all you young girls having babies (and everyone else, actually) ... best to avoid getting thrush in the first place. A diet high in sugar can cause candida (or thrush) which is an overgrowth of bacteria. If the mother has candida she will sometimes have vaginal thrush and when the baby is born it swallows some of this. Eating coconut oil regularly will prevent (or kill) it ... but limiting sugar (and unnecessary carbs) should be the first line of defence.

    3. That is a good point. Limiting sugar is overall a great health choice and does help curb yeast overgrowth. But a perfect diet still does not make one immune to getting thrush. Breast milk is naturally sweet regardless of diet.
      I only say this to pay way for less mom-guilt. Some things are beyond our control and we do the best we can with what comes our way.

  5. I noticed you used virgin coconut oil. I have a jar but it is not virgin, will it still work the same?

    Also, I used gentian violet for three days this past weekend on my nipples and just around them but I read somewhere today that you need to use a cotton swab and apply it over your entire areola and surrounding breast tissue. Did you use it like that? I really just want my thrush to go away lol.

    1. I think any coconut oil will work equally well.

      When I used gentian violet I did make sure to cover the entire areola, but I didn't extend it any further than that. I also swabbed out my baby's mouth with gentian violet 3 times a day while I treated myself. Its really important to treat both yourself and the baby so that you don't pass it back and forth.

      If you are still having trouble there are prescriptions you can try too. And I also read cutting back on sugar (or cutting out completely) will help the yeast have less to live on. Thrush can be a beast.

      Hopefully the gentian violet will do the trick though. I still felt sore for a couple days after using it, and I thought I might still have thrush, but I think my skin just needed to recover because I was fine in about two more days (of no treatment.)

  6. hi i came across your blog while googling coconut oil and nipple thrush....obviously i have nipple thrush! it's horrible and this is my first child. I feel like it is ruining breastfeeding for me which I love (i only have it in one nipple). I've tried EVERYTHING (her thrush is luckily gone)--28 days of diflucan, two rounds of GV, cutting back on sugar and carbs, grapefruit seed extract, baking soda, monistat, APNO, probiotics...etc. It is finally getting better in my ducts but I still have it on my nipple. I just bought coconut oil a couple of days ago and started using that, how long did it take to feel back to normal? I didn't buy extra virgin, is that a concern, should I buy the extra virgin? I've boiled everything, washed my sheets and towels over and over. Any advice??

    1. Oh I’m so sorry. It’s so rough when it won’t go away. For me I thought the coconut oil was a slow process of getting better. I didn’t really wake up and feel like I was sure it was gone. I just kind noticed I was feeling better over time. (I don’t think it matters if its extra virgin or not. Your’s should be fine.)
      I got thrush again with my second baby, and on the recommendation of my midwife did gentian violet. It’s a purple liquid. You can find it over the counter at different pharmacies, but they don’t all carry it, so call ahead before you drive all over town. It stains, so it’s not pretty, but it worked fast! I felt better in one day.
      To use: I made sure to cover the entire areola, but I didn't extend it any further than that. I also swabbed out my baby's mouth with gentian violet 3 times a day, for 3 days, while I treated myself. Its really important to treat both yourself and the baby (even if only one of you has it) so that you don't pass it back and forth, otherwise this will last even longer.
      Anyway, I’d highly recommend trying that gentian violet -- good stuff. The stains will come off your skin in about a week. And it does stain clothes, so you’ll need to wear not favs….but I did notice that after a few months of washing those stained clothes the purple eventually did go away.
      And you are right to wash everything. Don’t use reusable nursing pads right now (if you ever do), only disposable, till it’s gone. Wash your bra every single day in hot water. And I never reuse towels after my showers while nursing because I’m paranoid about thrush, I wash my own towels everytime now. (My husband thinks I’m nuts, but he’s never had thrush. :) )

    2. yes i've tried the Gentian violet..both for about 3 or 4 days, it didn't do much. I KNOW! i feel like i do laundry every second of the day! Did you ever try the nystatin? did that do anything for you? it didn't for me!
      thank you for your advice! it's nice to have someone else out there who has dealt w/ this!

    3. Yes with my first, I did two rounds of nystatin pills and I still had it. Right after that is when I tried the coconut oil, and I think maybe the combo was what really did the stuff in. (Even if I didn’t think the nystatin did much at the time, I’m guessing it weakened it.) Maybe give everything a try, all at the same time? With my second, I did use coconut oil all day in between the times I applied gentian violet.

  7. I am living in Shanghai and has just realised that out of nowhere after 9 months of no breastfeeding issues that I have nipple thrush, the usual medications are not available here so I have ordered some coconut oil which I hope arrives today to give it a go, I have also developed cracks as well, ouch!

  8. I have thrush right now. I also love coconut oil. For some reason it helps with the pain.

  9. Hi, my story sounds similar to yours. I may start using gentian violet. After you apply it and let it dry, does it continue to stain everything? Or does the staining only happen when it's wet/ upon application? Trying to figure out if it'll stain my pump parts and clothes... after it has dried... or not. Thank you!


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