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Breastfeeding Magazine

Blood in Breast Milk When Pumping or Feeding? Causes and Treatments



Blood in Your Breast PumpIf you notice blood in breast milk, random red streaks, or a pinkish tint that could hint at the presence of blood, it’s natural to momentarily panic. You automatically wonder if it’s safe to feed the milk to your baby, and you will likely start thinking the worst about what could cause blood to enter your breast milk. Thankfully, this is a common experience, and it’s more than likely not a problem for you or your baby. These tips will help you determine what to do when you find blood in your breast milk.

Potential Causes for Blood in Breast Milk

Breast milk can change colors for a number of reasons so it may not even be blood that you see.  However, if it is, there are many reasons that you may have some blood in your breast milk.  Most of these causes of blood in breast milk come with little to no concern for your health or your baby’s safety:

  • Dry, cracked, sore nipples. The skin on your nipples may break open if your baby struggles to latch properly or is an aggressive feeder. Even a small crack can produce enough blood to make a slight red streak that is noticeable when you pump out the milk. This type of crack may also occur from routine pumping. If this is the case, try to expose your breasts to some air when possible and apply a good nipple cream to help heal them.

  • Damage from pumping – Sometimes incorrectly using your breast pump can cause broken capillaries that cause your breasts to bleed. This blood will show up in your breast milk.
  • Engorgement – This occurs when your breasts become overly full due to rapid production of breast milk. The blood comes from the milk ducts and doesn’t present a danger to your baby. It is more common when your milk is first coming in or when you start feeding or pumping less frequently. (Learn more.)
  • Mastitis –   This is a common breast infection that comes with swelling, redness, and possibly chills and a fever. You may suffer this infection if you become engorged from not pumping or feeding often enough, but you usually don’t need medication to clear it up. (Click her to learn more about mastitis symptoms and treatment.)
  • Breast Cancer – While this is very rare, if the bleeding or breast discharge continues without other reasons there are a few forms of cancer that can occur and cause bleeding in the milk ducts. If you are concerned and the bleeding persists, you will want to be seen by a medical professional who can give a proper evaluation.

Should You Stop Breastfeeding?

In most cases, you don’t have to worry about small amounts of blood in breast milk. You can continue feeding your baby in complete confidence that their health is not at risk. Also keep in mind that your breast milk may take on a slightly red or pinkish color if you eat foods with red or orange dyes or natural food coloring. This also is no risk to your baby in most cases.

Unless you are bleeding A LOT, most babies are not affected and will nurse without a problem because they don’t even notice that there is an issue.  If your baby seems to refuse the breast due to the taste, try switching breasts or use some stored breast milk for that feeding.  (If you do decide to supplement, just make sure not to forget to pump so that you do not endanger your milk supply!)

You may also see changes in your baby’s diapers because they may have darker poop due to the blood.  As long as you know that the blood is coming from your breasts and is not from the baby, there is no need to be concerned.

Should You Stop Pumping?

Generally, you should continue to feed your baby or pump breast milk as you normally would in maintain your milk supply.  However, if your pump is part of the issue, you may want to try to adjust the settings and suction levels to keep you comfortable.  Make sure the pump is fitted properly to your breasts to prevent additional damage.

Can You Store Blood-Tinged Milk?

Usually there is no need to dump pumped milk just because you see a little blood in it.  Remember, you would not even know it was there in most cases if you were breastfeeding your baby and not pumping the milk.

When to Call the Doctor

If you continue to see a lot of blood, call your doctor right away.  You do not want to take chances.

However, if you are not seeing a significant amount of blood in breast milk and nothing else concerning going on, you can probably wait a few days to see if it clears up on its own.  If it does not clear up by then or you have other concerning symptoms, you may want to check with your doctor or your lactation consultant.

If you have dry, sore or cracked skin on your nipples and are confident that’s the source of the blood, a lactation professional can give you advice on healing your nipples to solve the problem. A medical doctor can help you eliminate more serious concerns while also giving pointers on how to fix the problem so that it doesn’t persist or get worse.

If you only see the blood occasionally and the cause doesn’t seem overly mysterious, you most likely don’t need to make a special call to the doctor. You might want to bring the issue up the next time that your baby goes in for a checkup, allowing the doctor to make a note of it and check the baby for your own peace of mind.

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