7 Causes of Blood in Pumped Breast Milk

causes of blood in pumped breast milk

Seeing blood in pumped breast milk can be quite scary at first.

As a new breastfeeding mom, there were a lot of things I was not prepared for. Bleeding nipples was one of them. But are there other causes of blood in pumped breast milk?

And is it safe to still nurse your baby or feed them the pumped milk?

In this article, we will discuss all that and more!

Blood in Pumped Breast Milk: Is it Safe?

7 Causes of Blood in Pumped Breast Milk

There are several potential causes of blood being present in breast milk.

Some of the more common reasons are:

1 – Damaged Nipples

This is probably the most common cause. Many new moms find their nipples cracked and bleeding when starting their breastfeeding journey. This is often attributed to a poor latch.

Treating the nipple can help it heal much faster and relieve the pain associated with the damage.

It is important to continue breastfeeding or pumping to avoid more issues like clogged milk ducts and mastitis from not properly draining the breast.

2 – Something You Ate

Eating foods or drinking things that have a natural red, pink, or orange color or products that have dyes can cause your breast milk to take on a color that might be mistaken for blood. Foods like beets, colored soda or sports drinks, or other highly dyed foods have been known to give breast milk a red, pink or orange tinge. 

3 – Mastitis

Mastitis is an infection within the breast and one symptom is blood being present in breast milk.

It should be noted that there are usually other symptoms associated with Mastitis such as a fever, soreness/pain in the breast, redness, flu-like symptoms, and the breast is warm to the touch.

If you present any symptoms of mastitis, you need to be seen by your doctor right away.

Click here to learn more about Mastitis and it’s symptoms.

In case you missed this going around on Social Media: This video tells one mom’s story of pumping bloody breast milk and clots before full symptoms of Mastitis set in (yikes):

4 – Broken Capillaries

The small blood vessels within your breast are called capillaries.

Due to some sort of trauma to the breast (like using a breast pump improperly), these capillaries can burst and cause blood to steep into your breast milk.

This should heal itself within a few days but ensure you are using your breast pump properly with the correct fitting breastshields is important.

5 – “Rusty Pipe Syndrome”

Rusty Pipe Syndrome is most often found in first-time moms. 

In the first few weeks after giving birth, there is more blood flow to your breasts and this engorgement can actually seep into your milk ducts. As a result, your milk can appear orange, rust, or brown colored. 

While it is not pleasant to see, the milk is perfectly safe to give your baby and will go away after a few days. 

6 – Benign Intraductal Papilloma

An intraductal Papilloma is a noncancerous growth that can be in the breast. It can cause bleeding if it grows in a milk duct or causes a duct to rupture.  

It often is seen as bleeding from the nipple without any actual damage to the nipple. You might be able to feel a small lump in the breast. 

You will want to see your doctor for an exam and diagnosis right away in this case.

7 – Breast Cancer

There are some types of breast cancer that can cause bleeding from the nipple. 

If bleeding does not resolve within a few days or the cause is unknown, it is always best to contact your doctor so that you can be examined.

Is Blood in Pumped Breast Milk Safe?

Blood in breast milk is safe to feed your baby, yes.

However, if you have any type of illness or infection where blood is a concern like Hepatitis, then you should consult with your doctor right away.

Blood in your breast milk can affect your baby in a few ways:

  1. Changes in the Taste of Breast milk: Your baby might not like the taste of the breast milk due to the blood and therefore feed less often or fuss at the breast.
  2. Blood in Stool of Baby: You might notice your baby passing stool with blood in it. (**Blood in a baby’s stool should always be reported to your doctor right away)
  3. Excess Spit-up or Vomiting
  4. Pumped Milk and Freezing: It should be noted that any breast milk you pump that does have blood present that the freezing process can change taste even more. Your baby may suddenly refuse the frozen milk due to the taste. You may need to mix fresh and frozen milk to dilute it. 

What to do About Blood in Breast Milk

So what can you do about blood in your breast milk? 

1 – Treat Cracked Nipples

If the blood is obviously coming from a damaged/crack nipple, then it is best to treat the nipple and let it heal. Here are some resources for dealing with bleeding nippled and finding out why it’s happening:

Reasons for Sore Nipple and Breastfeeding- Click Here!

Treatment for Sore/Bleeding Nipples- Click Here!

2 – See a Lactation Consultant

One of the leading causes of bleeding nipples is a poor latch. It is essential that you see a lactation consultant to help correct the problem. You can find a lactation consultant near you using the resources, here:

How to Find a Lactation Consultant- Click Here!

3 – Watch for Signs of Mastitis

If you have any flu-like symptoms, fever, redness in or around your breast, or excessive pain, you may have mastitis which needs to be treated by a doctor right away. You can find more information about Mastitis and clogged milk ducts, here:

Mastitis and Clogged Milk Ducts: Information- Click Here!

4 – Continue Breastfeeding and/or Pumping

It is important to continue breastfeeding or pumping. As reviewed above, blood in breast milk is safe for your baby and stopping breastfeeding abruptly can lead to many other issues like clogged milk ducts, mastitis, low milk supply, etc. You can Read More About Low Milk Supply and Other Common Issues, here:

Breast Pumping/Breastfeeding Issues- Click Here!

5 – Contact Your Doctor

Most issues will resolve in just a few days. If the cause of the bleeding is not obvious (like damaged nipples) and it continues for more than a few days, then it is best to contact your doctor and be seen.

Need more information on how to resolve sore, cracked, and bleeding nipples, dealing with clogged ducts or mastitis, or low milk supply?

Visit our Pumping Issues Page, here!

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  1. Sam Rooi says:

    It would be unsettling to see blood in pumped milk, but it can be downright frightening to breastfeed an infant (when you can’t really see the milk very well since you obviously want the baby to have every drop of it)… and then later seeing blood in their throwup. I’ve seen it once and my heart skipped a beat (and it wasn’t even my baby). Turned out the baby was fine and it was “just” be a cracked nipple. Imagine feeling “relieved” when you discover a cracked nipple!

    I bet many new mothers who encounter blood in breast milk will panic and initially try to google for an answer. Hopefully they’ll find this informative blog post.

    • Heather Grace says:

      Yes, I agree that it can be very unsettling! It also seems like it is a ton of blood when in reality it doesn’t take much to turn the color of the breast milk. More often than not, a cracked nipple is the likely cause. I appreciate you sharing your story! Hopefully, this article does give new moms some answers and help calm their nerves. We can be overwhelmed trying to be sure we are doing everything right as mothers.

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