At the same time as I was suffering from blood pressure issues, I was aching where it mattered most for Yousef: in my breasts. I had thought our breastfeeding relationship was established but one day, almost six weeks later, I woke up to massive and constant pains. It hurt when I nursed, it hurt when I did not, it hurt between nursings. My breasts throbbed, they burned. I cried when anything or anyone came remotely close to my nipples.
But I had to feed him, so I did; many time begrudgingly. Many times I tried
to avoid feeding him. Many times I wished I did not have to. Formula feeding
was looking very attractive. I debated the matter. I seriously considered it. I
also considered going the exclusively pump and bottle feed route. I did my
research and called around for hospital-grade pump rentals.
I played scenarios in my mind, looked at feeding an infant from many
different angles, told myself I could muscle through it. I counted the days in
my mind. “I can make it to six months through this pain,” I told myself. “I
could pump and give him breast milk for another twenty four weeks,” I
considered. “Formula feeding never hurt anyone,” I tried to convince myself.
But I was not convinced. No matter how I looked at it, I could not bring myself
to give up nursing and yet I wanted the pain to stop.
I reached out for support. I contacted a friend, then another, and a third.
I fielded calls to lactation consultants. I went to breastfeeding support group
meetings. I posted on my virtual support forum. I saw my OB. I researched
online. I knew I would find an answer but I did not know how to pose the
The first thought that crossed my mind was a “latch issue.” I worked on
that. There was no improvement. Then I thought he had a tongue-tie. That was
not it either. Maybe the pain would go away once my body got used to nursing.
It did not. My nipples were not cracked. My ducts were not blocked. It was not thrush.
It was worse. It was candida, and it was ductal. It was diagnosed by every
lactation consultant I spoke to, and confirmed by the one who visited me. Only
my OB was not convinced; and he held the key to my cure.
My OB preferred to take the conservative route to my diagnosis. He agreed
that I was suffering from something, but we disagreed as to what it was. He
first suggested the APNO. I agreed to try it. There was only one place that
composed it. The insurance did not cover it. It cost over $60. I hesitated. Two
days later I broke down and bought it. It did nothing.
I went back to the OB. I called and emailed him. I sent him research
findings. I waited for his response. He prescribed the medication, but not
enough pills were dispensed. He was not yet on board with the suggested course
of treatment. I resolved to ride the wave longer. I took the pills I had on
hand and called around for assistance.
I found a lactation consultant who took my insurance. Within 24 hours she
was in my bedroom helping me out. We discussed the treatment. We agreed on a
course of action. I followed all the steps leading to the last resort: a 14-day
supply of fluconazole in addition to the APNO, the grapefruit extract and the probiotics.
I needed someone to prescribe the antifungal. The question was who.
My cousin is a doctor. I tried to convince him to dispense it. I knew NPs
in other parts of the US, I reached out to them. I called my aunt in Lebanon
and emailed my sister in Australia. I found a website that would ship
internationally. I was desperate. If only my OB would write the script. Finally,
I was referred to a lactation consultant who was also an NP. She agreed to
dispense the required dose should my OB continue to refuse. She also agreed to
see me at a discounted rate to call the medication in. Things were looking up.
I gave my OB one last try. I emailed him the progress I was feeling on just
a couple of pills. He had a change of heart! I am not sure if it was my last email,
my pleading, his compassion, his sympathy or a combination but all of a sudden
a refill to the original prescription was called it. All was good with the
I religiously took the medicine, applied the grapefruit extract, waited for
it to dry, aired out my nipples, applied the APNO, waited some more, washed my
bras and shirts and towels and pillow cases and sheet and Yousef’s clothes daily.
I sanitized bottles and nipples and shields. Anything that touched my breasts
went straight into the dryer or microwave. Everything that had touched them was
boiled, sunned, sanitized. The pain was gradually subsiding until one day I woke
up “normal.” The pain was gone and the milk was still there. I was still
nursing, happily now.
At the time of writing Yousef is over seven months old and still nursing
like a champ. He is eating some solids but still prefers mama’s milk. After everything
we have been through, I am glad I worked through the pain and arrived at a
point of comfort. My last breastfeeding journey is looking good and I hope that
it will continue as much. I may even be lucky enough to end it the way I had
wanted to end the previous one: when we are both ready.