Blood in breast milk is a common breastfeeding problem. However, it should not prevent breastfeeding and is not harmful to your baby. It's something that most people who breastfeed typically don't notice unless they're pumping, their child spits up a bit of blood-tinged milk, or they see a little blood in their baby's bowel movements.
While it can be scary when you first come across it, there's likely no need to worry. Blood in your breast milk isn't usually a serious medical problem. Typically, blood in breast milk is caused by abrasions to the nipples. However, it can occur due to a breast infection like mastitis, which needs medical treatment. Learn more about the causes, prevention, and treatment of blood in breast milk.
The Color of Breast Milk
Blood can change the color of your breast milk to shades of pink, red, orange, or brown. Certain food dyes can also tint the color of your milk. So, before you think its blood, take a moment to recall if you recently had anything redto eat or drink such asbeets or red fruit drinks. Either way, try not toworry. Your breast milk will most likely return to its whitish, yellowish, or bluish hue within a few days.
Causes of Color Changes to Your Breast Milk
Blood in breast milk is usually not a serious problem, and it can come from a few different places. Here are some of the causes of red, pink, or brown colostrum and breast milk.
- Damaged Nipples: The most common cause of red or pink streaks in breast milk is cracked nipples. Blisters, eczema, cuts, and scrapes on the areola and nipple can also cause bleeding. If your nipples are bleeding, your baby will take in some of that blood as she breastfeeds, and you may notice the blood going into your breast milk as you pump. But, once your nipples heal, you should no longer see blood in your breast milk.
- Rusty Pipe Syndrome: During the first week or so after you have your baby, there's more blood flowing to your breasts as your body quickly begins to make breast milk. The blood from this stage ofvascular breast engorgement can seep intoyour milk ducts causing your colostrum or early breast milk to look brown, orange, or a rust color. It may remind you of the water that comes out of a rusty pipe, which is where it gets the name. And, while it doesn't look appetizing, it is OK tocontinue to feed your baby while your body is clearing out its milk ducts. Rusty pipe syndrome is seen more often in first-time moms. It's not dangerous or painful, and it usually goes away on its own in a few days.
- Broken Capillaries: There are small blood vessels in your breasts called capillaries. These capillaries can become damaged by not using abreast pumpcorrectly, or any other trauma to your breasts. The blood from broken, damaged capillaries can then leak out into your breast milk.
- Mastitis: Mastitis is a breast infection that can produce blood-tinged breast milk from the infected breast. Other symptoms such as redness, swelling, pain, and fever are usually present with mastitis.
- Benign Intraductal Papilloma: When there is red bleeding from the nipple that is not related to sore, damaged nipples, it could be due to an intraductal papilloma. An intraductal papilloma is a small growth in the breast that is not cancerous. It can grow inside of a milk duct or break a milk duct causing a bloody discharge from your nipple.
- Breast Cancer: Most of the time, a little blood in the breast milk or a small amount of bleeding from your nipple is nothing to be concerned about, but if it does not go away on its own in a few days, contact your doctor. There are some forms of breast cancer, such as ductal carcinoma and Paget's disease, which can cause bleeding from the nipple.
Yes, it is considered safe to continue breastfeeding and giving your child pumped breast milk even if your nipples are bleeding or you notice blood in your breast milk. A small amount of blood in your breast milk is not harmful, and it will not affect your baby or your milk.
As long as your baby is nursing well, you can continue to breastfeed. The problem should go away on its own within a few days. If it doesn't resolve after a week, you should check with your doctor.
However, if you have an infection that can be transmitted through your blood, you should talk to your doctor. It may be OK to breastfeed with infections such as Hepatitis B or C in the absence of blood. But when blood is present, you should stop breastfeeding. Hold off on giving your child breast milk until your nipples have healed and the bleeding has ended.
The Centers for Disease Control notes that exposure to blood through breast milk may increase the baby's risk of getting the infections that are spread through blood and body fluids, such as viral hepatitis and HIV.
Blood in your breast milk may not have any effect on your little one at all. But, some children may encounter the following issues:
Breastfeeding Problems: A little bit of blood is not likely to cause any problems, but a more significant amount could change the taste of your breast milk. Your child may not like the new flavor andrefuse to breastfeed.
Vomiting: Again, some blood is usually not an issue, however, your child may throw up if there's an excessive amount of blood in your breast milk.
Bowel Changes: While drinking blood-tinged breast milk, your baby's poop may be a little darker than normal, or you may see a little bit ofnoticeable blood in his or her diaper. If you know that the blood is coming from your breast milk, then it's ok.
However, if there is more than a tinyamount of blood in your child's diaper, or you see bloody stools, and you haven't seen any blood in your breast milk, contact your baby's doctor right away.
- You do not have to stop breastfeeding or pumping. It's OK to continue to give your child your breast milk if there's a little bit of blood in it. And, of course, you can always call your doctor or your baby's doctor for reassurance and more information if you need it.
- If you can see that the bleeding is from a cracked or damaged nipple, care for the problem. Make sure that your childis latching on correctly and use a safe nipple cream, your breast milk, or soothing hydrogel breast pads to help heal and protect your nipples.
- If breastfeeding is too painfuland you need to stop breastfeeding for a little while to allow your nipples time to heal, you should continue to pump as often as you would be breastfeeding to maintain your milk supply. Just remember to be gentle with your pump by keeping the suction and speed at comfortable levels.
- You can continue to give your child the milk that you pump by using an alternative feeding method.
- If your breasts are swollen and hard, treat engorgement.
- If the cause of the bleeding is not obvious and you can't see where it's coming from, you can give it a few days to see if it goes away. But, if it does not go away within a few days, contact your doctor for an examination.
Monitor yourself for signs of an infection such as fever, redness, swelling, and tenderness. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your doctor for the proper diagnosis and treatment.
Blood can change the flavor of your breast milk. The taste may be even stronger after a period of storage in the refrigerator or the freezer. If you use the blood-tinged breast milk while it's fresh, your child is less likely to refuse it.
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Dolan RT, Butler JS, Kell MR, Gorey TF, Stokes MA. Nipple discharge and the efficacy of duct cytology in evaluating breast cancer risk. The Surgeon. 2010;31;8(5):252-8.
Lawrence RA., Lawrence RM. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.(Video) Blood In Breast Milk(likely causes)
Yeung CY, Lee HC, Chan WT, Jiang CB, Chang SW, Chuang CK. Vertical transmission of hepatitis C virus: Current knowledge and perspectives. World Journal of Hepatology. 2014;6(9):643.
Yu JH, Kim MJ, Cho H, Liu HJ, Han SJ, Ahn TG. Breast diseases during pregnancy and lactation. Obstetrics & Gynecology Science. 2013;1;56(3):143-59.
- Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol Committee. ABM clinical protocol# 20: Engorgement. 2009.
By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.
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A little blood in breast milk is not harmful to your breastfed baby and is a common occurrence in the first week or so after a baby's birth. Reasons for short periods of blood in breast milk include rusty pipe syndrome, cracked bleeding nipples, broken capillaries in the breast or an intraductal papilloma.How do you treat blood in breast milk? ›
Wait it out. Waiting for blood to go away is the best solution when only a small amount appears during the first days of breastfeeding. If the blood clearly results from common concerns such as engorgement or rusty pipe syndrome, there's no need to seek help yet.What causes blood in breast milk? ›
Damaged Nipples: The most common cause of red or pink streaks in breast milk is cracked nipples. Blisters, eczema, cuts, and scrapes on the areola and nipple can also cause bleeding.How do you treat rusty pipe syndrome? ›
The rusty-colored milk usually appears during the first few days of breastfeeding. In most cases, the syndrome is spontaneously cured within 3 to 7 days after the onset of lactation [2,5]. In other cases, this condition persists for the first few weeks of lactation, and is eventually resolved spontaneously .What are the symptoms of Serratia marcescens in infants? ›
S. marcescens gives rise to a wide range of clinical manifestations in newborns: from asymptomatic colonization to keratitis, conjunctivitis, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, surgical wound infections, sepsis, bloodstream infection and meningitis [6,7].Is it OK if blood gets in breast milk? ›
Seeing blood in your milk may be alarming at first, however it is not harmful to babies, and if you experience it you can continue breastfeeding – in most cases it will stop within a few days. If it does not cease, or if you are at all concerned, consult your healthcare provider.Does blood in milk mean mastitis? ›
While blood in breast milk doesn't automatically mean something bad — it could be a result of damaged nipples, broken capillaries or mastitis — it could also be a sign of: A benign intraductal papilloma (a non-cancerous tumor) Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C infections.What does blood in breast mean? ›
Bloody nipple discharge is most frequently benign. It is caused by intraductal papilloma, duct ectasia, and less frequently by breast cancer. Several diagnostic tests have been proposed to establish the cause of bloody nipple discharge.What are the symptoms of contaminated breast milk? ›
Stomach cramps: Babies using spoiled, expired, or lumpy breast milk can cause stomach cramps, bloating, bloating, upset stomach, and fussiness. Food poisoning: Often spoiled breast milk will be contaminated, causing the infant to be infected with bacteria and have diarrhea and vomiting.Can cracked nipples cause baby to spit up blood? ›
If they happen to bleed during breastfeeding, it's possible for your baby to ingest some of it. As a result, their spit-up is going to have a slightly blood-tinged hue, or contain tiny traces of blood. Try breastfeeding with a nipple shield to temporarily limit your baby's exposure to your cracked nipples.
The phenomenon described in the literature as rusty pipe syndrome is a rare condition where the prenatal milk and the colostrum are rust- or blood-colored and the presence of erythrocytes in the discharge of one or both breasts is not connected with any mechanical damage of the nipple or with the presence of ...What is rust poisoning? ›
Rust isn't inherently harmful to human beings. In particular, touching rust or getting it on your skin isn't associated with any health risks. While you can get tetanus from a wound caused by a rusty object, it's not the rust that causes tetanus. Instead, it's caused by a type of bacteria that may be on the object.What is a rusty pipe? ›
Presence of blood in colostrum may change the color of breast milk and it is known as "rusty pipe syndrome." It may resolve within days, but it may be a barrier for exclusive breastfeeding. Knowledge of "rusty pipe syndrome" among health professionals is very helpful in the management of breastfeeding initiation.How do you know if you have Serratia? ›
Approximately 30% to 50% of patients with Serratia urinary tract infections are asymptomatic. Symptoms may include fever, frequent urination, dysuria, pyuria, or pain upon urination. In 90% of cases, patients have a history of recent surgery or instrumentation of the urinary tract.What does Serratia look like? ›
Serratia marcescens, which can cause nosocomial outbreaks,and urinary tract and wound infections, is abundant in damp environments (Figure). It can be easily found in bathrooms, including shower corners and basins, where it appears as a pink–orange–red discoloration, due to the pigment known as prodigiosin.Can Serratia be cured? ›
Serratia infections should be treated with an aminoglycoside plus an antipseudomonal beta-lactam, as the single use of a beta-lactam can select for resistant strains.Is it OK to feed baby with bleeding nipples? ›
It might be less painful if you use a nipple shield. Talk to a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counsellor first, to make sure you're using the shield correctly. It is usually quite safe for baby to feed on a bleeding nipple.How do you know if you have breast tissue damage from pumping? ›
The first few times you pump may feel uncomfortable but pumping should not be painful, result in sore nipples, or cause bleeding. Pain, sore nipples, and nipple irritation or bleeding may be signs of an injury.Why is there blood in my baby's spit up? ›
I found blood in my baby's spit-up or vomit.
Possible cause: Swelling of the esophagus or stomach (esophagitis or gastritis), or another health problem that requires diagnosis and treatment. Action to take: Call you pediatrician right away so they can examine your baby.