Blood In Breastmilk
Finding blood in breastmilk is nothing to worry about; it’s quite common, especially for first-time breastfeeding moms.
The blood cannot harm your baby; the blood consumed will pass through your baby's digestive tract, as a bowel movement, therefore, you can continue to breastfeed.
Mom will usually discover the blood, either in pumped breast milk, inside her baby’s mouth after breastfeeding, or in her baby’s stools.
Blood found in breast milk is usually not a serious issue; about 15% of all breastfeeding mothers 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 the baby is spitting up milk with blood in it, the mother should have the milk-spit-up tested to make sure that the blood is not coming from the baby’s body.
So what Causes Blood in Breast Milk?
All of the below breastfeeding problems usually end quickly and are not considered serious.
A crack or any damage to the nipple. Cracked broken nipples and nipple blisters can cause blood in breast milk.
Read more about identifying the cause of your cracked nipples.
Vascular engorgement: Also called rusty pipe syndrome, due to the rusty color of the milk; this usually occurs immediately after giving birth. A first-time mommy may notice that her expressed milk is orange or pink in color; this is due to the increased blood flow to her breasts, which is needed during the development of the milk-producing cells. The blood will usually disappear within a week or so after birth.
Broken capillaries: This is due to breast injury. Rough treatment of your breasts, or pressing your breast too hard while hand expressing, and using a breast pump incorrectly. Damaged capillaries in the breasts can also be due to the normal growth of breast tissue during pregnancy and is often referred to as “rusty pipe syndrome."
Intraductal Papilloma: A Fibrocystic breast condition is the result of small, harmless tumors in the milk ducts. These breast Papilloma tumors are usually only found in one breast and cannot be felt with the hand. Papilloma will usually subside on its own, without any treatment.
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).
Read more here about the causes of Fibrocystic breast condition.
Treatment to Stop Blood in Breastmilk
A mother should continue to feed her baby as normal, blood in breast milk cannot harm a baby. If there is a lot of blood in the milk, it can cause the baby to vomit, but this is rare. If the baby does vomit, the mother 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. The best thing to do is to wait it out. Time will give your
breasts and nipples, a chance to heal themselves and you can continue to
breastfeed during this time.
If it is too painful to continue to
breastfeed, you can pump milk for a day or two, to give your breasts a chance to heal. Make sure you pump at least 8 - 10 times per day, to keep your breast milk supply sufficient. If the bleeding continues past two weeks, it's best to
contact your physician or lactation consultant.
When using a breast pump, make sure 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.
Be gentle with your breasts while hand expressing breast milk.
Treat your sore or broken nipples. If nipple damage is the cause, a mother should identify why her nipples are damaged and rectify the specific issue.
Proper latching on can prevent sore, cracked nipples.
- If excessive blood is present in the milk for longer than a week, the mother can consult a breastfeeding friendly doctor.
During the first two weeks after birth, no treatment is needed, as the bleeding might be a result of normal breast tissue growth, during pregnancy.
What if Your Baby is Drinking Too Much Blood?
Warnings about your baby drinking blood in the breast milk
- If your baby seems to have a lot of bloody diarrhea, it is best to get to your doctor.
If your baby’s jaundice seems to be getting worse, it is best to pump and dump until the bleeding stops.
If you have any diseases or infections that are contagious, you should stop breastfeeding until the bleeding stops.
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