Ever Heard of Ductal Thrush?

Ever heard of Ductal thrush? Well if your answer is no, you’re not alone. Up until just over a week ago, I hadn’t either!

If you read my recent post “Is this what natural weaning looks like?” you’ll know that for the past eight months I have been dealing with excruciating pain during breastfeeding, which has increased in intensity and become almost constant in the past month. Unable to come up with any answers for what could have suddenly caused our trouble free breastfeeding relationship to suddenly become painful and unpleasant, I reasoned that perhaps this was just the beginning of our natural weaning process. That’s the trouble with full term breastfeeding not being the norm in this country – there aren’t enough people around who have fed an older child, for mothers to be able to assess if pain is a typical and common response to the end of the breastfeeding relationship.

Luckily for me and Little Cat, I have some wonderful, knowledgeable readers who contacted me to offer advice after reading about our troubles.

A common suggestion was thrush which I had already ruled out, believing that thrush was something which would only affect the nipples. I was experiencing deep pain within the breast, along with nipple pain. I didn’t have any redness or noticeable difference in the appearance of my nipples, and Little Cat didn’t seem to have anything going on in his mouth. It couldn’t be thrush!

But then one wise reader offered up the term “Ductal thrush.”

Thrush (in whatever form) was the one condition that every single person who I had been in contact with had mentioned, so feeling doubtful I decided to go ahead and do some research on this “Ductal Thrush” just in case it led me to some answers.

And the moment I read the symptoms, I knew my wise readers were right! The description of Ductal thrush described the symptoms I had been experiencing to a tee!

So what did I do to treat it? Well I immediately stopped eating sugar, drinking alcohol and completely cleaned up my diet. There is some good advice here for people who have breastfeeding related thrush.

I asked my (also very wise) friends for advice and was told the exact medication I needed to treat this – a course of tablets called Fluconazole and a gel called Oral Daktarin for Little Cats mouth and my nipples, which I confirmed with my own research. Armed with my (self) diagnoses and the medication requirements to treat it, I booked myself in to see my notoriously anti breastfeeding GP. He listened patiently as I explained how I had been in pain for eight months and had finally found something which I believed could be the cause, and then told him the meds I wanted.

He scoffed and replied “The medical community (pointing to himself) doesn’t recognise Ductal thrush as a valid condition. It’s just hippy nonsense thought up by breastfeeding counsellors who all seem to have a bee in their bonnet about it.”

Expecting his negative response, I wasn’t swayed from my goal.

“I have been in pain for eight months and this is the only thing that I have heard or read about which can explain why. I am happy to hear your ideas for what could be causing the pain, but I still want to give this treatment a try. Even if it is not the cause, I’m sure it won’t do any harm to just try.”

“That’s a very reasonable suggestion. My thoughts… Well, I would recommend you stop feeding, then the problem will disappear by itself won’t it?”

“That’s not something we are ready to do yet.”

“But he’s three and a half, surely you realise he is just doing this for comfort now? It’s not for hunger any more.”

“Of course, it’s been mostly for comfort for quite some time now, but comfort is still a valid need, and we are not going to be stopping right now. So, about that prescription…”

Mockingly, he handed me the prescription (though he refused to prescribe the gel for LC, I instead had to buy it over the counter) and waved me out the door.

Two days later the pain was significantly reduced. I was nearly in tears as I fed Little Cat in comfort for the first time in months. Eight months of agony and within two days of treatment I knew we had found the answer. And then I had a light-bulb moment, the kind that makes you feel like a prize idiot for not putting two and two together in the first place. In August last year, right before this started I was bitten by a tick and quickly started showing symptoms of Lyme disease. I had to take a three week course of antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy good bacteria and are renowned for being a trigger to thrush. Why oh why did I not realise this at the time?

But, you live and you learn. A week on and I am happy to say I am almost entirely pain free. There is still some slight tenderness in my right breast, but in comparison to what is was just a week ago, it really is nothing to write home about. Unfortunately in the past few months the pain has been so bad that I have had to severely limit Little Cat’s feeds, and he has taken to not asking much and even refused a feed for the first time ever this week. I’m sad that I have had to push him to slow down before he was ready, but I’m so grateful that we could save what we have left before it became impossible.

So, key tips for tackling nipple and Ductal thrush:

  • Stop eating sugar as it feeds the thrush.
  • Wash bras and tops at 60 °C.
  • Take a pro-biotic supplement and eat foods with pro-biotic content.
  • Don’t take no for an answer when it comes to getting the medication you need.



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16 thoughts on “Ever Heard of Ductal Thrush?”

  1. Hi, I love your blog, I’ve an11 month old and find your blog inspirational as a parenting style to follow.
    I wanted to share with you that I suffered from ductal thrush following antibiotics for mastitis when my little girl was 2 weeks old. I self diagnosed after remembering a friend had it. Not before I thought I had a bad latch and no end of problems getting going with breast feeding.
    Once diagnosed I battled with it for 7 months and had to go to a happy place during feeding and looking back I don’t know how I managed except to say I’ve a very loving husband.
    I completely feel your pain and if any doctor wants to quip about it being hippy nonsense then I’d suggest you find another dr! I too saw a couple that had no clue what to do.
    Whilst suffering with thrush, never in my life had I visited a dr so much. Eventually I think it was a mixture of high dose fluconazole tablets and a steroid cream called timodine for my poor nipples. I too also increased my intake of acidophilus and reduced sugar in my diet. I didn’t rate daktarin as it made my little girl sick. Your little one is older though so it may not be an issue.
    I hope you recover from this very soon. Thanks for sharing your patenting :^D
    Jen x

    1. Wow, that must have been hard to deal with so early on in your parenting journey! You are amazing to have stuck it out! We will be moving doctors very soon – this isn’t the first trouble we have had there unfortunately.

  2. I love that picture! I have some similar of my Monkey. Cutest thing ever.

    And good on you for standing up to your doctor! Sounds like you need to find a new one.

    I don’t understand why people think comfort is an invalid reason to nurse a child. My milk has recently dried up because of our fertility treatments, buy Monkey still likes to nurse, and so we do.

    1. I know – breastfeeding is about so much more than food! I love how comforting we both find it. Do you find it painful to dry nurse? I have had several friends who had to stop when their milk dried up as they found it too uncomfortable.

  3. Wow! Good for you sleuthing that out! Several months ago I began having increasing instances of mastitis. Breast massage with a very special oil (Rupam Henry’s Lady Nada’s Breast Oil), and a few different herbal things to support my liver cleared up that problem for me. I was concerned that mastitis was going to be a more frequent occurrence as we transition toward weaning, but it would seem that I managed to find another way to support my body in long term breast-feeding. I’ve been learning more about breast health in the past several months and find it so empowering. Breast-feeding is just the tip of the ice-berg for a very important women’s health issue. I’ve written a couple blog posts on the topic and have one more in the queue, just need to find the time…

    1. Oh tell me about it! There is always a waiting list of articles isn’t there? Send me a link when you get it posted, I would love to read it. It’s great that you found a natural solution – I went with a combo of meds and natural because it was so far advanced I just wanted to hit it with everything, but now that my course of tablets is finished I am trying to continue the natural treatments. Coconut oil is magical of course!

  4. Thank you for posting about this subject. As someone who has been struggling with thrush for 10 months now you have my sympathy. So glad you have been able to get on top of the symptoms in time to enjoy the twilight of your nursing relationship. Take heart on that front too, my youngest went on a five day nursing strike last month and today she’s back to feeding so much I thought I had rocks down my top from engorgement!

    1. That’s great to hear that your daughter was able to re-establish her feeding – I must admit to being worried about my supply after so much limiting, but I still seem to have enough for LC at the moment. So sorry to hear you have had to cope with it for so long, it really does affect your whole life doesn’t it?

  5. Thank you for writing this. I keep being told I have a blocked duct (no lump) and have been massaging the bejesus out of it, resulting in a very sore breast now. I’ll be going to the doctor today requesting these medications and hopefully get rid of this pain.
    Take care

  6. I also dealt with this and used Nystatin cream on my nipples. It helped the ductal thrush considerably even though I applied it topically. You are right about doctors not knowing much about this, as well!

  7. HI Sam, I too think I am suffering with this. Thank you for this precious information, I am soooo optimistic that Fluconazole is going to be my saviour!! I have emailed you RE your youtube videos, did you get it?

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