When you shop through links on our site, we may receive compensation. This educational content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

Blood In Breast Milk: Causes & When to Worry

Medically Reviewed by Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
Can you breastfeed if you have bleeding nipples or blood in your breast milk?

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.

Key Takeaways

  • 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).

4. Mastitis

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.

Is It Safe to Breastfeed with Blood in Breast Milk?

You can absolutely continue breastfeeding when you have bleeding nipples or notice some blood in your milk. It won’t harm your baby, and you can keep doing so as long as they’re still nursing well.

If the issue persists, see your health care professional for advice.

There are times when you might not be able to continue feeding. These include moms who have hepatitis B or C. It might be OK if you have these conditions to breastfeed when no blood is present, but not if there is.

If you have hepatitis B or C, wait until your milk is blood-free before commencing breastfeeding again. In the meantime, remember to express or pump and discard your milk to keep your supply flowing (7).

When it comes to viral hepatitis and HIV, the advice is different. These diseases can be passed through blood and bodily fluids to your baby, which includes your breast milk. In these circumstances, you should not breastfeed (8).

Does Blood in Breast Milk Affect My Baby in Any Way?

On the whole, blood in your milk will not affect your baby at all. There are some associated issues you might come across, which include the following:

  • Blood in your breast milk has the potential to change the flavor of the milk if there is a lot of it. Your baby might not like this and refuse to feed.
  • Your baby might vomit more than usual. This will generally happen only when there is a lot of blood in the milk.
  • You might notice your baby’s poop becomes darker or has some blood in it. As long as you know this is a result of the blood in your breast milk, then it’s OK. If you see blood in your baby’s diaper and there is none in your milk, you should contact your baby’s health provider as soon as possible.

What Can I Do About Blood in My Breast Milk?

As we have already mentioned, breastfeeding and pumping can continue in most cases, even if there is some blood in your milk. If you need reassurance, speak to your doctor for advice and information.

If it’s obvious your nipples are cracked and bleeding, address the problem. Make sure your baby is latching on correctly, and use a nipple cream that is safe for babies. You might want to apply soothing breast pads to help protect and heal your nipples.

If it becomes too painful for you to breastfeed, stop while your nipples take time to heal. Pump on a gentle setting as often as you would be feeding your baby. This will keep your milk supply up so you can start feeding again when you’re ready (9).

You can still feed your baby the pumped milk from a bottle in the meantime.

If the cause of the blood in your milk is engorgement, this can be treated. You can apply chilled cabbage leaves (really!) or cold packs to help relieve the symptoms (10).

Keep an eye out for any signs of infection, such as redness, fever, tenderness, and swelling. If you see any of these signs, or the cause of the bleeding isn’t apparent, see a doctor.

Can Breast Milk Be Stored When There Is Blood in It?

Yes, it can, but be aware that the longer it’s stored, the more the taste might change. It’s better to use it as fresh as possible to reduce the risk of your baby refusing to drink it.

What Does Strawberry Breast Milk Mean?

Strawberry breast milk refers to milk that has a pink or reddish tinge, often due to blood from cracked nipples or other benign causes.

While it might look alarming, it’s usually not harmful to the baby. However, if you notice blood in your breast milk, consult with a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying issues.

Is it Normal For Your Breast to Bleed While Breastfeeding?

It’s relatively common for breasts to bleed a little while breastfeeding, especially in the early days when you and your baby are still getting the hang of it.

This can be due to cracked or sore nipples. While it’s usually not serious, proper nipple care is important, and persistent issues should be addressed by a professional.

How Do You Know If You Have Breast Tissue Damage From Pumping?

Signs of breast tissue damage from pumping include persistent pain, redness, swelling, or bruising.

Using a pump that’s too powerful or improperly fitted can cause damage. Ensure you’re using the correct breast shield size and settings, and consult a lactation consultant if you’re experiencing issues.

How Do You Treat Bleeding Nipples From Breastfeeding?

Treat bleeding nipples from breastfeeding by ensuring a proper latch, using a healing nipple cream or expressed breast milk, and giving your nipples time to air out and heal.

Use breast pads to protect your clothing, and consider consulting a lactation consultant for additional strategies and support.

Feedback: Was This Article Helpful?
Thank You For Your Feedback!
Thank You For Your Feedback!
What Did You Like?
What Went Wrong?
Headshot of Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Medically Reviewed by

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC is a writer, editor, and board-certified lactation consultant for two busy pediatric practices. She is a former La Leche League Leader, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and Certified Infant Massage Instructor.