Have you noticed some blood in your breast milk when you are pumping? Maybe baby has spit up some pink breast milk or has 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 and there are several reasons it can happen. 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.
- Signs of Blood in Breast Milk
- Causes of Blood in Breast Milk
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Carry on Breastfeeding
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 breast milk. You might even be alerted by seeing some blood in your baby’s stools or if their stools are darker than normal.
Before you rush your baby off 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 in color, 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, then 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, then consult your healthcare provider who can investigate further.
Causes of Blood in Breast Milk
As we’ve mentioned, it’s not usually a serious problem, but you will want to put your mind at rest by figuring out the cause. Here are some of the reasons you might see bleeding during pumping or feeding.
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’re not pumping correctly. It may also be the result of dry skin or eczema (1).
You might see bleeding during pumping or notice blood when baby spits up. Once your nipples heal, there should be no blood in your breast milk.
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, in preparation to feed your baby. An increase in the blood flow to your breasts means the glands and milk ducts develop and grow quickly. Some of the blood stays in the milk ducts and is then released with the colostrum and milk as you start your breastfeeding journey (2).
3. Broken Blood Vessels
There are lots of tiny blood vessels in your breasts, called capillaries. 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 an infection which can happen in the breasts 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 discharge from the nipple which has blood in it. 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 in a few days on its own, then you should see your doctor.
Although very rare, some breast cancers may cause discharge from the nipples which can be bloody (6). But don’t go there yet, mama! It’s most likely nothing to worry about.
Seeing some traces of blood in breast milk is quite common. There are many causes, the majority of which will clear up quite quickly and are not a reason to worry.
Keep breastfeeding baby — the traces of blood are not going to harm them, they might just spit up a bit more.
If you are in any way concerned if this happens, then see your doctor sooner rather than later. If nothing else, it will put your mind at rest and give you some reassurance.