Blood in Breast Milk: Should You Worry?

Blood in Breast Milk: Should You Worry?

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Suddenly seeing blood in your breast milk can be alarming. Usually, you’re going to notice when you’re pumping milk.

If you don’t pump very often, you might notice it when your little one spits up, which can be even more alarming. Take a deep breath. Typically, blood in your breast milk is not something concerning, and it’s still safe to feed your baby. 

If you’re not sure if there is blood in your breast milk, look at the color. The blood will not instantly make your breast milk the color of blood.

You may notice red streaks, though. It can also transform the color of your breast milk to a pink, orange, brown, or red hue. 

Why Is There Blood In My Breast Milk?

There are a variety of things that can cause blood in your breast milk. Your nipples may be cracked and bleed sporadically, or you may have a clogged duct.

These are both very common. Learning the various things that can cause blood in breast milk will help you figure out what’s going on with yours, and what you can do about it. 

Your Nipples Are Bleeding

Breastfeeding is hard on your nipples. This alone can make them dry, crack, and occasionally bleed. Other skin conditions, such as eczema, can also make your nipples bleed.

Because your breast milk comes out of your nipples, you’ll see a tinge of blood in the breast milk. 

You can determine if this is what’s causing blood in your breast milk by giving your nipples an inspection. You’ll more than likely be able to see a crack here and there.

If your nipples are extremely sore or you have eczema, there may be a tiny crack in the skin that you cannot see yet. Once your nipples heal, your breast milk will return back to its normal color. In the meantime, take extra good care of them.

If you have not been applying nipple cream, now is a good time to start. It can help prevent the problem from getting worse, and ease discomfort. 

Rusty Pipe Syndrome

Rusty pipe syndrome is seen in a lot of women that are just beginning to breastfeed. This is often why colostrum is brown or orange in color. 

Rusty pipe syndrome is caused by so much blood rushing to your breasts when you start breastfeeding. The increased blood flow helps ensure that you keep producing milk, etc.

However, it can be a little too much blood flow in the beginning. Some of the blood may seep through other areas of the breast, and make its way into the ducts. 

It’s called Rusty Pipe Syndrome because it’s similar to using a pipe that has not been used for a long time, and the color of your milk maybe a rust color.

While this can happen in anyone, it’s more common in first-time moms than anyone else. If this is the case, it’ll be soon after you start breastfeeding. Rusty Pipe Syndrome will resolve itself on its own. 

Mastitis

Mastitis is an infection of the breast. One of the main symptoms of mastitis is seeing blood in your breast milk. Mastitis is caused by bacteria entering the breast.

This is common in breastfeeding moms that have a cracked nipple. If you don’t empty your breast completely, it can increase your chances of developing this condition.

Going for long periods in between nursing can also up your chances. It’s because the milk can become clogged in the duct. Other symptoms of mastitis include: 

  • Red skin
  • Breast feeling warmer than usual to the touch
  • Fever due to the infection
  • Lump in breast
  • Feeling ill (such as being very tired)
  • Constant pain while breastfeeding

Young mother feeling breast pain, mastitis infection

Mastitis may go away on its own. Make sure to feed more on the affected side to help clear the milk duct. If the symptoms do not improve within 12 hours, it’s time to call the doctor.

Infections will need to be treated with antibiotics. Your doctor might not be able to tell if you have an infection or not, so they will probably treat you as if it is an infection.

If left untreated, you can develop a large abscess in your breast that could need to be surgically removed. 

Broken Or Damaged Capillary

A broken or damaged capillary is also called a broken blood vessel. If you have a broken or damaged blood vessel, blood can pool under the skin. We often see this when bruises form.

You might see a bruise form on your breast. However, broken capillaries that are further beneath the surface of the skin might not form a bruise.

If you’ve experienced any type of breast trauma, and then notice blood in your breast milk, this is more than likely the cause. 

Specific Types Of Breast Cancer Cause Bleeding From The Nipple

If you can’t find the root of the problem, it could be that this is the only symptom of breast cancer. Usually, this is not the case, but it’s a great idea to contact your doctor just to make sure.

If you have symptoms of something else, it’s more than likely not breast cancer.

Is It Safe To Breastfeed If There’s Blood In Your Breastmilk?

Usually, it is perfectly safe. The amount of blood is very small, and it does not pose a risk to your baby. However, there are exceptions.

If you have a disease that can be passed through blood, such as Hepatitis, you should never feed your baby if there is blood in your breastmilk. Blood in breastmilk can still be concerning, though.

If you’re unsure, always give your doctor or lactation consultant a call to double-check. They know more about your particular situation than anyone.

Cropped shot of obstetrician gynecologist consulting pregnant woman at ultrasound scanning office

In Conclusion

Blood in breastmilk can catch you off guard, and will usually give you a scare the first time it happens. However, there’s not usually anything to be concerned about.

Solve the underlying issue, and your breastmilk will return to normal over time. In the meantime, you can usually still feed your baby.

Medical Disclaimer. All content and media on the MomInformed Website is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.

My name is Amber Dixon. I am a mother to three wonderful children, and recently welcomed a beautiful grandson into the world as well as into my home. I've learned a great deal about raising children through my own experiences as a mother, but also from several other places. While working at a daycare full time, I learned about childhood development, teaching children, and more. Through earning degrees in Social Work, I was educated about human development, including a great deal about children and childhood development. My education and experience combined have taught me a lot about children of every stage and age, and I hope that I can help you on your journey to becoming the best parent that you can be!

My name is Amber Dixon. I am a mother to three wonderful children, and recently welcomed a beautiful grandson into the world as well as into my home. I've learned a great deal about raising children through my own experiences as a mother, but also from several other places. While working at a daycare full time, I learned about childhood development, teaching children, and more. Through earning degrees in Social Work, I was educated about human development, including a great deal about children and childhood development. My education and experience combined have taught me a lot about children of every stage and age, and I hope that I can help you on your journey to becoming the best parent that you can be!