Have you noticed that the color of your breast milk has changed to a new, surprising shade? Are you worried it means something serious?
You aren’t alone — we’ve experienced this too and have found ourselves wondering about its significance.
With your body undergoing so many changes, rainbow shades in your breast milk are the last thing you want to worry about.
To set your mind at ease, we’ve consulted with our medical team and have written this guide to explain the phenomenon. We’ll explain what color breast milk should be and what it means for you and your baby if your breast milk appears to be changing colors.
Breast Milk Changing Color?
Seeing color changes in your breast milk is absolutely normal. While it may be surprising — and at times alarming — it’s rarely a reason for concern.
When I was navigating breastfeeding, I didn’t hear much about the different colors of breast milk, and I did my fair share of worrying over startling shade changes. However, once I started asking questions, plenty of women had stories about breast milk color changes.
There are a variety of reasons why breast milk changes color. Each shade can signal something different. By educating yourself about these breast milk color changes, you’ll learn more about breastfeeding and discover new things about yourself and your baby.
The Phases of Breast Milk
As your baby grows, they require different nutrients. In the first week of breastfeeding alone, your milk goes through significant changes as it comes in. Each phase has a slight color variation.
When your milk is beginning to come in, you can expect these stages and shades:
During the first three to four days of your little one’s life, your body produces this very concentrated milk, usually golden yellow in color. Colostrum is full of nutrients to sustain your baby. It tends to be very thick, but it may also appear clear or watery.
2. Transitional milk
Somewhere between the 2nd and 14th day of breastfeeding, you’ll notice a white, creamier milk mixed with your colostrum. This change signifies that your body is producing mature milk (1).
3. Mature milk
After your body has stopped producing colostrum, your breast milk should be a regular, white and creamy color with good substance. It will follow the foremilk in a feeding.
Every time you breastfeed, your body produces foremilk, a low-fat substance in the front of your breast. Your baby receives the foremilk first. It is often very thin and clear or tinted blue.
Hindmilk is breast milk that follows the foremilk, looking a bit darker or even yellow compared to foremilk. It comes at the end of a feeding when your breasts are getting close to empty.
Breast Milk That’s Red or Pink
Fortunately for your baby, there isn’t a single health concern related to this happening — you’re safe to continue breastfeeding. Even a couple of drops of blood can make your breast milk appear significantly reddish!
Pink, orange, or red tints in your breast milk may also result from something in your diet. Red and yellow food dye can be absorbed into breast milk, especially when consumed in large quantities.
However, if you notice these colors persisting for over a week, or if you experience continuous nipple and breast pain, it’s time to visit the doctor.
What if My Milk Is Green?
Rest assured, there is no evidence that a green tint in your breast milk means something harmful for you or your baby.
A green hue appears mainly due to diet changes, such as these:
- Green veggies: Large amounts of leafy greens like spinach may tint your breast milk.
- Green drinks: Your breast milk may appear green shortly after drinking Gatorade or other drinks with a green hue from artificial colorings.
- Supplements: As crazy as it sounds, some vitamins and herbs have, on rare occasions, become visible in breast milk. Iron can also be a culprit in some cases.
When Should I Be Concerned?
If your baby seems content, well-fed, and happy after feedings, you don’t need to worry about color changes in your breast milk. It’s a natural part of the breastfeeding process.
If you were feeding directly and not expressing milk, you’d never even know about your breast milk color changes.
Editor's Note:Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
However, if your baby is fussy and crying after feeding, paying attention to your breast milk may help you decode the behavior.
For example, drinking too much soda may result in a pink tint. If your milk is pink and your baby is fussy, it could be a sign they’re getting gassy from your breast milk, and it’s time to swap soda for something else.
Mastitis or Clogged Ducts
Clogged milk ducts can lead to mastitis, a painful condition that affects the breast during breastfeeding. The milk thickens to the point where it’s difficult to pass through your nipple.
You may see strands of blood or pus in your breast milk, and it may clump if you store it for a few hours, but these things won’t harm your baby. The antibodies from your breast milk will protect them. It’s important to continue breastfeeding through clogged ducts.
You may notice your milk is yellow as your duct becomes unplugged. This is because all that thick, fatty milk is finally being released. (Once my baby spit up a spaghetti-like string, and I was horrified, but it was just the plugged duct coming unstuck.)
There are a few things you can do to avoid getting clogged ducts:
- Empty your breasts during feedings.
- Feed frequently and on demand.
- Ensure you’re using the correct pump parts for your breasts (2).
- Try to wear loose-fitting clothing.
- Be sure your bra isn’t too tight.
Color Changes When Baby Is Sick
Did you know when you breastfeed, your baby’s saliva is carried through the nipple to your body? Your body then reads information from the saliva and adds the antibodies your baby needs to your breast milk. Amazing!
It might sound like science fiction, but our bodies really can identify illnesses and infections in our nursing babies. When this happens, your breast milk may change color as the milk changes to suit your baby’s needs.
Aren’t moms awesome? We work full time as cafeterias, caregivers, and natural pharmacists!
Yellow Breast Milk While Weaning
Even months after you’ve fully weaned your toddler, you may continue to produce yellowish milk.
As your milk stops producing, the yellow variety will turn transparent and sticky. It can be subtle, and you may only notice a slight residue on your bra. This change is entirely natural and doesn’t indicate an infection.
A Note on Discharge
If your breasts are leaking discharge instead of milk, it could be a sign of a more serious health problem. Pay attention to the liquid that comes from your nipples during weaning, and stay aware of your body through these changes.
If discharge persists, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor.
Milk Changes Color in Storage
You may notice changes in your breast milk’s color after it’s been frozen or left in the refrigerator. Don’t throw it out! Before you believe your milk has gone bad, take a closer look.
You can store refrigerated breast milk for up to five days. The fat separates when left to settle, potentially appearing in different shades. Mixing the milk before using it will fuse the fat and nutrients once more.
If stored in a deep freezer, your milk can last an entire year (3). Frozen breast milk also tends to look more yellow — this doesn’t tell you anything about the milk’s freshness.