One day while expressing breastmilk, you notice a red tinge to your milk.
You realise it's blood, and now you aren't sure if it's safe to give to your baby.
After all, doesn't blood usually signal a problem?
Breastmilk that contains blood may be in a variety of colours, such as red, pink, brown, black or olive.
Many breastfeeding mothers don’t notice the presence of blood in their breastmilk, unless they express for some reason. Before we even began pumping breastmilk with breast pump devices, we didn't get to see what went into our babies tummies!
However for some mothers, they may discover their breastmilk may have contained blood if their baby’s poo is dark in colour or blood-stained. Or they may notice their baby spitting up blood-stained breastmilk.
The presence of blood in your breastmilk can be frightening at first. But is it safe to feed this milk to your baby?
The good news is that in most cases, blood in breastmilk is usually nothing to worry about, and it's actually quite common, especially in the early weeks.
Blood In Breast Milk
Here are 3 things that may cause blood in breast milk:
Blood In Breast Milk Cause #1: Cracked Nipples
The most likely cause of blood in your breastmilk is nipple damage.
The main cause of nipple damage is due to a problem with positioning and attachment.
Speaking with an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor or seeing a lactation consultant can provide you with tips to help manage the nipple damage as well as improve the positioning and attachment.
Blood In Breast Milk Cause #2: Rusty Pipe Syndrome
It's common to have blood stained colostrum or milk during the early days after giving birth, due to the increased blood flow to your breasts. The increased blood flow is needed for the growth of ducts and milk-making cells in your breast. This is known as rusty pipe syndrome or vascular engorgement.
No treatment is required, other than time, and the blood usually does not persist for longer than about one week after birth.
Blood In Breast Milk Cause #3: Intraductal Papilloma
An intraductal papilloma (a small benign wart-like growth on the lining of a milk duct) may bleed as it wears away and hence be another (less common) cause of blood in breastmilk.
The bleeding from an intraductal papilloma will usually go away on its own without any treatment.
Hepatitis And Blood In Breast Milk
It's important to note that although a mother does not need to be advised against breastfeeding if she is has Hepatitis B or C, if her nipple is cracked or bleeding, it is advisable for her to stop feeding on that side until the nipple has healed. She can express and discard her breastmilk (to maintain her supply) until her nipple heals and then resume feeding.
Even though the most likely cause of blood in your expressed milk or in your baby's poos is from breastmilk, it's still important to see a healthcare provider to rule out anything that might need medical attention.
It can be quite scary to see blood in your milk or your baby's nappy, but for many mother-baby pairs, it's simply part of the transition towards establishing a healthy breastfeeding relationship.