Blood in breast milk
Blood found in breast milk is usually not a serious issue and is actually quite common; about 15% of all breastfeeding moms have blood in their milk, even if they do not see it.
The blood that appears in the milk may appear pink, brown or red. There may be a discharge of the same colors from the nipples.
If there is no blood present in the breast milk, but baby is spitting up milk with blood in it, Mom should have the milk-spit-up tested to make sure that the blood is not coming from baby’s body.
So What Causes Visible Blood in Breast Milk? Or a Blood Tinged Discharge?
• A crack or any damage to the nipple.
• Damaged capillaries inside the breasts. This can be due to the normal growth of breast tissue during pregnancy and is often referred to as “rusty pipe syndrome”. It can also be due to any rough handling of the breasts, especially while using a breast pump.
• Tiny growths called intraductal papilloma may line the ducts which can bleed during breastfeeding. These growths are non-cancerous and should not cause any pain. The bleeding due to these little growths should only last about a week.
• Fibrocystic changes in the breasts can cause some bleeding. This is normal and very common.
• Paget’s disease is a very rare form of breast cancer and occurs in only about 2% of all women who get breast cancer. The blood found in milk due to this is usually very persistent. Mom may also have red, itchy, scaly nipples and areolae. (sometimes mistaken for thrush)
Blood in Breast Milk Treatment
The first two weeks after birth, no treatment is needed, as the bleeding might just be a result of normal breast tissue growth during pregnancy.
• Mom should continue feeding baby as normal, blood in breast milk, cannot harm baby. If there is a lot of blood in the milk, it can cause baby to vomit…but this is rare. If baby does vomit, mom can continue to breastfeed from the unaffected breast and pump the other breast for a few days, until there is no more blood in the milk.
• If excessive blood is present in the milk for longer than a week, Mom can consult a breastfeeding friendly doctor.
• If nipple damage is the cause, mom should identify why her nipples are damaged and rectify the specific issue. Page on sore/cracked nipples.
• When using a breast pump, make certain that the flange fits your breast comfortably and that the pump suction setting is not too high. Breast shells can also cause some internal capillary damage if used too often.
Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)
Reference: Breastfeeding counsellor course through Child Birth International on the physiology of breastfeeding / breastfeeding problems / Blood in breast milk.
Other pages on breastfeeding problems in connection with breast milk and blood page.
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