So you’ve finally mastered the art of breastfeeding and pumping. But one day, you notice blood in breastmilk! Is there something wrong with breast milk color red?
This sight is enough to scare even the toughest mom. However, blood in breastmilk is more common than you think, especially in first-time breastfeeding moms.
We tend to associate color of breastmilk with blood with something to worry about, but in the case of “strawberry milk” (which some moms call blood in breastmilk), there’s usually no need to fret.
Many mothers don’t notice blood in breastmilk unless they express it, although sometimes, direct-latching moms may spot some blood in their baby’s stools or in his/her spit-up.
Blood in breastmilk: Why is my breast milk red?
1. Cracked nipples
Nipple damage is usually the most common cause of blood in breastmilk.
Cracked, sore nipples are almost always caused by poor positioning of your baby on the breast and attachment issues. And when your baby sucks vigorously, this can cause the tissue to bleed.
Speak to a lactation consultant/nurse for tips and information on how to improve your baby’s positioning and attachment to the breast, which will, in turn, help heal any damage to your nipples, stopping the bleeding.
A correct latch-on position can solve the problem of sore nipples and therefore bleeding
2. Vascular engorgement
Also known as Rusty Pipe syndrome due to the breast milk color red, this condition occurs in moms soon after giving birth and is also more common among first-time moms.
It happens due to the increased blood flow to the breasts soon after birth which is needed for the development of milk ducts and milk-making cells in your breasts. in combination with the rapid development of milk-producing tissue in the pregnant mom.
No treatment is needed since vascular engorgement usually disappears on its own after about a week and doesn’t re-occur. Also, experts encourage moms with this condition to continue breastfeeding.
However, if bleeding continues beyond a week, it’s best to consult a doctor for professional advice.
3. Intraductal papilloma
An intraductal papilloma is a small, benign wart-like growth on the lining of a milk duct that bleeds as it wears away. They are usually only found in one breast and cannot be felt through manual stimulation.
Breast papilloma are harmless and don’t need to be treated, and the bleeding will subside on its own.
4. Broken capillaries
This can occur due to rough handling of your breasts, pressing your breasts too hard while hand expressing, or incorrect usage of the breast pump.
Try turning down the suction of your breast pump if the blood in your breastmilk is due to broken capillaries (bright red blood indicates the source is most likely near your nipples), which will help reduce pressure on the area and allow it to heal.
It’s okay to give your baby bloody breastmilk in almost all cases.
Is it okay to give your baby “strawberry milk”?
Yes, it’s perfectly fine on most occasions, according to lactation experts, save for a few exceptions, which you’ll read about later in this article.
Internationally renowned pediatrician and lactation expert Dr. Jack Newman says that even though breast milk color read may cause your baby to spit up more and even show up as digested blood in his poo, “this is not a reason to stop breastfeeding the baby.”
Meanwhile, lactation consultant and author of Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple Nancy Mohrbacher says, “it is fine to continue breastfeeding, and the bleeding will not harm your baby.”
Lactation experts at La Leche League International concur that breast milk with blood is usually safe to feed your baby.
Your baby will not be harmed in any way by swallowing blood in breast milk; it will just pass out with your baby’s stool. And if you see blood in your baby’s diaper, as long as you know it’s from your breastmilk, there’s no reason to be worried.
However, to ensure this blood is from your breastmilk, please consult your baby’s pediatrician to rule out any other causes, such as allergies (from your own food intake), infections, and even lacerations around your baby’s anus.
Blood in breastmilk: When not to feed your baby
While it’s generally fine to continue feeding your baby despite having blood in breastmilk, there are a few exceptions to this rule, according to medical experts.
Women with HIV/AIDS should avoid giving their babies breastmilk with blood.
Also, if you have recently suffered from an infection such as hepatitis, sepsis, or another serious illness, consult your doctor before giving your baby bloody breastmilk.
Your doctor will be able to determine if there is a risk of your infection being passed on to your baby through the blood in your breast milk or if you can carry on nursing.
Storage and refrigeration tends to intensify the taste of iron in bloody breastmilk, so it’s best to feed this milk to your baby as soon as possible.
Storing breastmilk with blood in it
Some babies might refuse to drink breastmilk with significant amounts of blood in it due to the strong iron taste it might have. This taste intensifies when the milk is refrigerated or stored for several hours.
Therefore, if you have expressed milk and notice blood in it, try to feed it to your baby immediately if possible to prevent him from rejecting the milk.
Preventing and stopping bleeding from your nipples
In most cases, time will be your healer.
However, if you find breastfeeding too painful, keep your milk supply up by pumping at least 8-10 times a day.
If you are determined to continue direct-latching despite the bleeding, try out these tips to help soothe the pain:
- Breastfeed from the uninjured (or less injured) side first. Your baby will suck less vigorously from the second side offered after his initial hunger and thirst are satiated.
- A brief application of ice on the injured side just before latching can help soothe the pain, as the initial latch-on is the most painful.
- Try out different breastfeeding positions to find out which one is the most comfortable for you.
Note that if the bleeding lasts more than 14 days, it’s best to speak to a healthcare provider. Also, if you are unsure why your nipples are bleeding or how the blood got into your breast milk, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Sometimes, infections such as mastitis and nipple thrush cause blood and pus to leak into your milk — and infections such as this almost always need prompt treatment with antibiotics.
If you don’t get timely treatment, medical experts say that your milk ducts may close temporarily, making breastfeeding impossible.
Breastmilk color changes
Aside from breastmilk color red when blood is in breastmilk, are there other breastmilk color changes that can happen?
Yes, your body switches from producing colostrum, transitional milk, and mature milk when your milk’s color changes from yellow or orange to white or bluish. It is solely the product of the milk’s changing composition and has nothing to do with any problem.
Here’s what your color of breastmilk means:
What is a normal breastmilk color?
Breast milk normally appears lighter and is white, although, on rare occasions, it may have a subtly yellowish or bluish hue.
Yellow color of breastmilk
If you’ve just given birth, you might be surprised to discover thick yellow breast milk instead of white milk. This is normal as moms frequently produce yellow milk in the first few days following childbirth.
This is often referred to as first milk or colostrum because it is the first milk your breasts make after giving birth. You will produce this thicker, higher antibody milk for up to five days after giving birth.
Breast milk often has a little blue tint. It’s typical to see a bluish color when pumping or nursing starts. The milk in question (foremilk) is leaner, lower in fat, and more electrolyte-rich. The milk (hindmilk), which is creamier and heavier in fat, is whiter or yellowish after a feeding or pumping.
Breast milk color changes: Green
Your milk may seem green if you consume a lot of green veggies, such as spinach or seaweed. When using supplements like chlorella, the same holds true.
In most cases, if your breast milk appears dark or black while you are taking the medication, you can attribute it to the medication. This could happen if you take the antibiotic minocycline (Minocin).
Before taking minocycline or any other medication, let your doctor know if you are nursing a baby. While all are completely safe, some can cause breast milk to change color, while others may require you to take a different medicine.
When do breastmilk color changes
Breastmilk color changes depending on the stage you are in after giving birth. Here are the main 3 changes in the color of breastmilk:
- The first milk that your breasts produce upon childbirth
- Lasts for five days following delivery
- Full of antibodies
- Yellowish in color
- Between colostrum and mature milk stage
- 5 to 14 days after giving birth
- It has a creamier appearance and is golden or orange in hue
- Mature milk begins to come out of your breasts two weeks after delivery.
- This milk from every feeding initially appears white, transparent, or blue before gradually turning creamier, thicker, or yellow as the feeding draws to a close
Blood in breastmilk: When should you be worried?
If the cause is unclear and you cannot identify its source, you can wait a few days to see if the bleeding stops. Make an appointment with your doctor so they can examine you. However, if the discomfort continues after a few days.
Watch for infection-related symptoms like fever, discomfort, swelling, and redness. If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor for the proper diagnosis and care.
**The information in this article is based on the author’s own research. For all health issues that you or your baby encounter, your first point-of-contact should be a medical professional.
Republished with permission from theAsianparent Singapore
Additional information from Margaux Dolores
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