Breastfeeding and Blood In Your Breast Milk

What causes it, and is it safe to give it to your baby?

Bottle, Breast Milk
Breast milk with blood in it may look pink, red, or rust colored. Fuse/Getty Images

Should You Be Worried If You See Blood in Your Breast Milk?

The appearance of blood in breast milk is not that uncommon. It often goes unnoticed unless you're pumping or your child spit's up a little bit of blood-tinged milk. It can be scary when you first notice it, but there's likely no need to worry. 

Blood and The Color of Your Breast Milk

Blood can change the color of your breast milk to shades of pink, red, orange, or brown.

Certain food dyes can also change your milk to one of these colors. So, before you think it's blood, try to remember if you recently had anything red to eat or drink such as beets or red fruit drinks. Either way, try not to worry. Your breast milk will most likely return to its whitish, yellowish, or bluish hue within a few days.

What Can Cause Blood in Your Breast Milk?

Cracked Nipples: The most common cause of red or pink streaks in breast milk is sore, cracked and bleeding nipples. If your nipples are bleeding, then your baby will take in some of that blood as she breastfeeds, and you'll also notice the blood going into your breast milk as you pump. Once your nipples heal, you should no longer see blood in your breast milk or your baby's spit ups. 

Rusty Pipe Syndrome: During the initial phase of breast engorgement that happens in the first week or so after you have your baby, blood may seep into your milk ducts causing your breast milk to look brown, orange, or a rust color.

It's often said that it looks like the water that comes out of a rusty pipe. And, while it doesn't look appetizing, it's actually OK to continue to feed your baby while your body is clearing out its milk ducts. Rusty pipe syndrome is not dangerous, and it usually goes away on its own in a few days.

Broken Capillaries: There are small blood vessels in your breasts called capillaries. These capillaries can become damaged from the improper use of a breast pump, or any trauma to your breasts. The blood from broken, damaged capillaries can then leak out into your breast milk.

Mastitis: Mastitis is a breast infection that can produce blood-tinged breast milk from the infected breast. It's usually accompanied by other symptoms including redness, swelling, pain, and fever.

Benign Intraductal Papilloma: An intraductal papilloma is a small growth in the breast that is not cancerous. It can grow inside of a milk duct or break a milk duct causing a bloody discharge from your nipple.

Breast Cancer: Even though most of the time, a little blood in the breast milk or a small amount of bleeding from your nipple is nothing to be concerned about, if it does not go away on its own in a few days, contact your doctor. There are some forms of breast cancer, such as ductal carcinoma and Paget's disease, which can cause bleeding from the nipple.

Is It Safe To Give Your Baby Breast Milk If There's Blood In It?

Yes,  you can still breastfeed your baby or give your child pumped breast milk even if you notice there's blood in it. A small amount of blood in your breast milk will not affect your baby or your breast milk. A larger amount of blood, on the other hand, could change the flavor of your breast milk, and your child may refuse to breastfeed. Your baby may also throw up if there's an excessive amount of blood in your milk. But, as long as your baby is nursing well and not vomiting, it's safe to continue to breastfeed. The problem should go away on its own within a few days. If it doesn't resolve after a week, you should check with your doctor.

Blood In Your Breast Milk May Mean Blood In Your Baby's Diaper

While drinking blood-tinged breast milk, your baby's poop may be a little darker than normal, or you may see a little bit of noticeable blood in his or her diaper. If you know that the blood is coming from your breast milk, then it's ok. However, if there is more than a tiny amount of blood in your child's diaper, or you see bloody poop, and you haven't seen any blood in your breast milk, contact your baby's doctor right away.

What You Can Do If You See Blood In Your Breast Milk

  • You do not have to stop breastfeeding or pumping. It's OK to continue to give your child your breast milk if there's a little bit of blood in it. And, of course, you can always call your doctor or your baby's doctor for reassurance and more information if you need it.
  • If you can see that the bleeding is from a cracked or damaged nipple, care for the problem. Make sure that your child is latching on correctly and use a safe nipple cream, your own breast milk, or soothing hydrogel breast pads to help heal and protect your nipples.
  • If breastfeeding is too painful and you need to stop breastfeeding for a little while to allow your nipples time to heal, you should continue to pump to maintain your milk supply. You can also give your child the milk that you pump by using an alternative feeding method.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of an infection such as fever, redness, swelling, and tenderness. If you notice any of these signs, call your doctor for the proper diagnosis and treatment.
  • If the cause of the bleeding is not obvious and you can't see where it's coming from, you can give it a few days to see if it goes away. But, it does not go away within a few days, contact your doctor for an examination.


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Nelson, R. S., & Hoehn, J. L. Twenty-Year Outcome Following Central Duct Resection for Bloody Nipple Discharge. Annals of Surgery. 2006: 243(4); 522.

Sauter, E. R., Schlatter, L., Lininger, J., & Hewett, J. E. The Association of Bloody Nipple Discharge with Breast Pathology. Surgery. 2004: 136(4); 780-785.

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