Have you noticed a new, surprising shade in your breast milk? Are you worried it means something serious?
You definitely wouldn’t be alone in that. With your body undergoing so many changes on top of all things baby, sudden rainbow shades in your breast milk are the last thing you want to worry about.
The good news? You don’t have to! Read on to decode what a surprising shift in hue could mean for you and your baby.
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 almost always not a reason for concern.
When I was navigating breastfeeding, I didn’t hear much about different colors of milk, and did my fair share of worrying over startling shade changes. However, once I started asking questions, plenty of women had stories about the different things they saw in their breast milk.
There’s a variety of reasons why breast milk changes color. Each shade can signal something different. Educating yourself on why your milk changes in such colorful ways is a great way to learn 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, so don’t be concerned as you experience these changes.
When your milk is beginning to come in, you can expect these stages and shades:
During the first 3 to 4 days of your little one’s life, your body produces this very concentrated milk, usually golden yellow in color. This is full of nutrients to sustain your baby. Colostrum 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 is where your body starts producing mature milk (1).
3. Mature milk
After your body has stopped producing colostrum, your breastmilk is 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. It’s what your baby receives first, and is often very thin and clear or tinted blue.
Hindmilk is fatty breast milk that often comes out looking a bit darker or even yellow compared to mature milk. It comes at the end of a feeding when your breasts are getting close to empty.
Breast Milk That’s Red or Pink
Rosy brown tones in your breast milk are frequently a result of trace amounts of blood getting into your breast milk. This could be a side-effect of a poor latch, resulting in cracked, dry nipples.
Fortunately for your baby, there isn’t a single health concern related to this happening — you’re safe to continue breastfeeding (2). Even a couple of drops of blood can make the milk significantly reddish!
Pink, orange, or red tints in your breast milk may also be a result of 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 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 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:
- Green veggies: Large amounts of leafy greens like spinach may tint your breast milk.
- Green drinks: Gatorade and other drinks with a green hue from artificial colorings can show up in your breast milk shortly after drinking it.
- Supplements: Certain vitamins and herbs have, on rare occasion, become visible in breast milk, as crazy as it sounds! Iron can also be a culprit in some cases, too.
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.
In fact, if you were feeding directly and not expressing milk, you’d never even know about the color changes.
Editor's Note:Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
However, if your baby is fussy 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 baby. The antibodies from your breast milk will protect them (3). It’s actually important to breastfeed through this!
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 (4).
- 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? What about the fact your body reads information from this saliva and puts whatever antibodies your baby needs in 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, our breast milk may change color as the milk changes to suit 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 child, you may continue to produce yellowish milk.
As your milk stops producing, the yellow variety will turn transparent and sticky. It can be subtle — you may only notice a slight residue on your bra. This is entirely natural and doesn’t indicate an infection.
A Note on Discharge
Anytime 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 When It’s Stored?
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.
Refrigerated breast milk can be stored for up to five days. When left to settle, fat separates, potentially appearing in different shades. Mixing the milk before using will fuse the fat and nutrients together once more.
If stored in a deep freezer, your milk can last an entire year (5). Frozen breast milk also tends to look more yellow — this doesn’t mean anything about the milk’s freshness.
A Rainbow of Colors
Basically, from pink to green, your breast milk can be any tint or shade!
The reasons are nearly endless — from natural causes to food dyes — and the results don’t usually pose a threat to you or your baby’s health.
Have you experienced a breast milk rainbow? Have questions or comments? Let us know down below.