Did you find blood in your breast milk? Were you pumping or hand expressing?
Did your baby spit up blood, or poop blood?
Are you wondering where it came from and what to do about it?
You’re in the right place. This article will give you all the answers you need when you find blood in your breast milk.
In General… Don’t Worry
Blood in your breast milk is actually incredibly common! Up to 15 % of women have blood in their breast milk and don’t even know it! Having small amounts of blood in your milk shouldn’t harm your baby, and often your baby won’t notice it.
There are many reasons you might find blood in your breast milk. I’ll discuss the possible reasons, and what to do but in general don’t worry.
Reasons For Blood In Breast Milk
1. Cracked Nipples
Often when starting out breastfeeding, a moms nipples will become sore and cracked. While it’s normal for nipples to be sore when first starting out, cracked and bleeding nipples is a sign of a problem.
You can try to put lanolin or olive oil on your nipples to soothe the soreness. Just remember not to put anything on them that your baby shouldn’t ingest. This study explains that the type of salve you put on your breasts doesn’t matter. Breast milk, olive oil, and lanolin cream are all equally as effective in offering relief from nipple pain.
If you notice your nipples are cracked and bleeding, the MOST LIKELY cause is that your baby isn’t latched on correctly. In order for your baby to efficiently draw out milk from your breasts, they need to be latched on deep. Read about how to achieve a good breastfeeding latch here. If you still have problems, it can be helpful to reach out to a lactation consultant for help.
2. “Rusty Pipe Syndrome”
There is a syndrome that some moms experience, usually with their first time breastfeeding.
It’s called Rusty Pipe Syndrome because of the way your milk ducts grow during pregnancy and postpartum to prepare for breastfeeding. When your breasts grow and milk ducts enlarge, blood is brought into the area. Sometimes the growth will cause small amounts of blood to collect within the milk ducts. Then, when you start breastfeeding your milk may look brown or rusty (hence the name).
If you notice this in the first days after birth when your milk comes in, as long as your baby is feeding there isn’t need to worry. It should be gone in a few days and is safe to breastfeed in the meantime.
3. Breast Damage
Blood in your breast milk can also be caused by breast damage. This doesn’t need to be severe, it could be dropping something on your chest or using a pump flange that doesn’t fit right. When something causes slight damage to your breast tissue, some capillaries (little blood vessels) may break.
If you notice blood in your breast milk, try and remember if you hit your breasts and check to make sure your breast pump flange fits right.
Additionally, you may sustain breast damage from your baby nursing if they are a strong and efficient nurser. If that’s the case, try to watch for your baby’s early hunger cues. If you can catch your baby when they’re hungry but not STARVING, they may not feed as vigorously.
4. Intraductal Papilloma
An intraductal papilloma is basically just a harmless growth within your milk ducts. Sometimes you may be able to feel a small lump in your breast, or sometimes they’re too small to be felt.
If this is the cause of blood in your breast milk, it usually only occurs in one breast and not the other. Sometimes it can cause a lot of blood, and your baby may not react well to it. If that’s the case, just pump and dump on that side for about a week until the blood subsides and then continue to nurse as normal.
Blood in your breast milk could also be caused by mastitis. Mastitis is a breast infection.
Signs of mastitis are your breast looking red and feeling warm, swelling, pain while breastfeeding, fever, and chills. The best thing to do it you have mastitis is to FEED IT OUT! Breastfeed your baby often… I know it hurts but its the best way to solve the problem.
If you can’t seem to get rid of the mastitis, you may need to see your doctor for antibiotics.
What To Do If You Find Blood In Your Milk
If it isn’t a large amount and your baby doesn’t seem to be bothered by it, then just give it some time. Continue to breastfeed, and address any of the possible causes. Make sure your baby is latched on correctly to prevent any nipple damage.
If your baby doesn’t seem to tolerate blood in the milk, then pump for a few days until the blood is gone from the milk. If you pump and dump, be SURE to pump at least 8-10 times per day. Milk supply is dependent on demand, so you need to continue to express milk in order to get back to breastfeeding later. If you decide to pump, get the right size flange and keep the suction at a reasonable level to avoid damage.
If you are expressing and giving your breast milk in a bottle later, sometimes the taste changes if there’s blood in it. Even though its perfectly fine for your baby, they may refuse it because of the taste. In this case, try to feed your baby the milk after its been freshly expressed. For some reason, babies will often accept the milk if it’s fresher.
If your baby has bloody diarrhea, see your doctor. Your baby’s poop might be a little bit darker if they’re getting some blood in your milk. But if their poop is extremely bloody, make an appointment. You should also make an appointment if you don’t find blood in your milk, but you find blood in your baby’s poop.
If your baby spits up and you see blood, check to see if you have blood in your milk first. You can check by hand expressing. If you don’t see signs of blood in your breast milk, make an appointment with your baby’s pediatrician. They can check your baby’s hemoglobin levels and see if the blood is coming from you or from your baby.
If your baby has jaundice (high bilirubin levels), blood in your breast milk may make it worse. Be sure to see your baby’s doctor to monitor your baby’s levels and ensure they’re safe.
In Summary: Blood In Your Breast Milk
When you find blood in your breast milk, generally it isn’t a cause for concern. Often, blood in your baby’s poop or vomit is also from you. Try to determine the cause of the blood in your breast milk, and if you are concerned it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor.
Kealy Hawk, BSN, RN, CLC
Kealy is a Registered Nurse, Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own baby feeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their feeding journey. She specializes in breastfeeding support and evidence-based formula recommendations. To talk with Kealy or take one of her breastfeeding or formula classes, visit https://littlebearcare.com.
If you liked this article, check out these others:
- Milk Blebs: What Are They And What To Do
- What To Pack In Your Hospital Bag If You Plan On Breastfeeding
- Baby Won’t Breastfeed – What To Do