Have you noticed some blood in your breast milk when you are pumping? Or maybe your baby spit up some pink breast milk or had some streaks of blood in their poop. If so, you could be alarmed and left wondering why there is blood in your breast milk.
Don’t panic! This is a common problem in breastfeeding moms for several reasons. It usually isn’t anything serious, and you can carry on feeding your baby.
We’ll look at some of the reasons you might have blood in your breast milk. We will also cover how it can affect your baby and what you should do about it.
- Blood in breast milk can be caused by damaged nipples, Rusty Pipe Syndrome, broken blood vessels, mastitis, intraductal papilloma, or rarely, breast cancer.
- Most of the time, blood in breast milk is harmless and breastfeeding can continue safely.
- If the issue persists or you notice signs of infection, consult a healthcare professional.
- Blood in breast milk may change the taste, but storing the milk is still safe as long as it’s used as fresh as possible.
Signs of Blood in Breast Milk
The first time you might notice there is something amiss is seeing a change of color in your milk. It could be any variety of shades, including red, orange, brown, or pink. You might even be alerted by seeing some blood in your baby’s stools or if their stools are darker than usual.
Before you rush your baby to the emergency room, think about what you have been eating. Some foods and food dyes can change the color of your breast milk. Have you been eating beets or drinking anything red, such as fruit drinks?
I know I panicked once after eating a lot of beetroot salad and seeing reddish stools, but then I realized it was the beets. If this is the case, it will pass in a day or so.
So, you rule out the food-induced pink breast milk. What’s next? It’s still possible your breast milk will return to its normal color in a few days.
If it doesn’t, consult your healthcare provider so they can investigate further.
Causes of Blood in Breast Milk
Blood in breast milk is not usually a serious problem, but you will want to figure out the cause. Here are some reasons you might see blood while pumping or breastfeeding.
1. Your Nipples Are Damaged
One of the more common reasons you might have pink or red streaks in your milk is cracked nipples. Your baby may not be latching properly, or you might not be pumping correctly. It may also result from dry skin or eczema (1).
You might also notice blood when your baby spits up. Once your nipples heal, there should be no blood in your breast milk.
This video explains some of the ways you can treat sore and cracked nipples.
2. Rusty Pipe Syndrome
This syndrome is more often seen in first-time moms and causes your colostrum to appear pinkish, brown, orange, or rusty-looking. While alarming to look at, it goes away in a few days, and it’s fine to carry on breastfeeding your baby.
It’s caused by something called vascular engorgement. This describes the process of a part of your body filling with blood or other fluids.
When you’re pregnant, your breasts go through many changes to prepare to feed your baby. Increased blood flow to your breasts means the glands and milk ducts develop and grow quickly. Some of the blood might stay in the milk ducts and then be released with the colostrum and milk as you start your breastfeeding journey (2).
3. Broken Blood Vessels
There are lots of tiny blood vessels called capillaries in your breasts. Any trauma to the breasts or incorrect use of a breast pump can damage these delicate vessels. When they break, the blood from them can leak into milk (3).
Mastitis is a breast infection that can happen when breastfeeding. It’s triggered by a build-up of milk in the breasts. This could be because of missed feeds or your baby not latching on properly.
It can cause streaks of blood in your milk. The condition is treatable with rest, hydration, and possibly over-the-counter pain medication. If it persists, a doctor might prescribe antibiotics.
You can continue to breastfeed until the mastitis clears up (4).
5. Benign Intraductal Papilloma
An intraductal papilloma is a small non-cancerous growth in the breast. It can develop in a milk duct. If it breaks, it will release bloody discharge from the nipple. If you see bleeding from your nipples and they aren’t sore, this could be the cause (5).
6. Breast Cancer
On most occasions, a little blood in your milk is not a cause for concern. On the other hand, if it doesn’t clear up on its own within a few days, you should see your doctor.
Although very rare, some breast cancers may cause bloody discharge from the nipples (6). But don’t go there yet, mama! It’s most likely nothing to worry about.
Seeing blood in your milk can be scary. Here, we’ll answer the most common questions we’re asked about blood in breast milk.