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Why Do I Have Blood in Breast milk?

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If there is one thing that will freak any new mother, it is finding blood in their breastmilk. However, even though it seems concerning, it is a very common problem. Parents frantically call their lactation consultant asking why they found blood in breastmilk.

Before you get overly concerned, try to think about anything you have recently eaten that may be red in color, such as beets. Food dyes can alter the color of your milk! If you drank a red drink, your milk would go back to its normal color within a few days. There are other reasons you may have tinted breastmilk. Let’s take a look at those reasons.

What Causes Blood in Breastmilk?

There are a few reasons why you may find blood in your breastmilk, either in your baby’s mouth or a bottle of pumped milk. The problems end shortly and are not severe or dangerous to your child.

1. Cracked or Broken Nipples

The most common reason you may find blood in your breastmilk is your nipples are cracked or broken. There may have been a nipple blister you missed, and it broke, leading to blood.

This is most common in new, breastfeeding mothers. Newborns are not gentle when they nurse, combined with learning how to latch properly, and it is a recipe for cracked nipples.

2. Vascular Engorgement

If you notice a rusty color to your breastmilk, you may something called rusty pipe syndrome. It is most common right after birth, and it is frequently noticed in first-time mothers.

As they are expressing milk, they see an orange or pink tint to their breastmilk, which leads to significant concerns.

Luckily, vascular engorgement is nothing to be worried or panicked by! When you have your child and your body signals for breastmilk production to begin, blood flow rapidly increases to your breasts. Additional blood helps create milk-producing cells.

Since this is a new thing for your body, you may notice some blood in your breastmilk. Within a few days or a week, the blood will disappear.

3. Broken Capillaries

Are you treating your breast roughly?

If so, you may experience broken capillaries. They are most likely to occur during hand expressing or when using a breast pump incorrectly.

4. Intraductal Papilloma

There is a possibility you have a benign intraductal papilloma, which is a non-cancerous growth in the breast.

When they grow around or inside of a milk duct, they can lead to bloody discharge.

5. Mastitis

One of the most common breast infections is mastitis, and it is no fun. If you notice you have redness on your breast, swelling, shooting pains, accompanied by a fever, you could have mastitis.

To treat it correctly, a doctor will need to prescribe an antibiotic. Any breast infection, including mastitis, could lead to blood-tinged breastmilk.

6. Breast Cancer

A majority of the reasons for blood in breastmilk are no big deal, but breast cancer is the one reason to be concerned.

If you have yet to figure out the problem, and it has not subsided in a few days, a trip to your doctor is in order.

Certain forms breast cancer, like Paget’s disease, can lead to bleeding from the nipple. However, this is the least likely reason for the bleeding.

How to Treat Nipple Bleeding

Most of the reasons for bleeding with resolve with time, but there are some ways to help treat the issue. If you heal and fix the problem, the bleeding will subside.

Intraductal papillomas and breast cancer have to be diagnosed by a doctor. Although you can search the signs and symptoms, the best course of action is to speak with a health professional.

Here are some ways to treat the other above issues.

Treating Cracked and Broken Nipples

If you have determined this is your issue, there are plenty of ways to treat it. Unfortunately, cracked nipples are so painful, and they make nursing dreadful.

First, you need to figure out if the cracked skin is for any particular reason. A shallow latch, thrush, milk blisters, and lip or tongue ties can all cause cracks on the skin. Healing requires determining the cause of the problem.

If your baby has a bad latch, there are some ways to help. First, point your nipple at his nose right before you latch. He will follow the smell and lift his head upwards. Let your nipple fall into his mouth. Never let a baby slurp your nipple into his mouth. That is a surefire way to lead to cracks.

Thrush and ties need to be treated by a doctor. Ties will need to be clipped by an expert. Although it sounds traumatic, clipping a tie is the best solution.

Here are some other tips to help your nipples heal and the bleeding stop.

  • Try different positions to find the most comfortable
  • Apply ice right before latch on to help numb the area
  • ​Breastfed from the side that is not cracked (or not as bad) first
  • ​Wash your nipples with salt water or saline then pat dry.
  • ​Apply breastmilk to injured nipples.
  • ​Expose nipples to air as much as possible.
  • Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen if needed

Rusty Pipe Syndrome

Although finding blood in your milk is disturbing; rusty pipe syndrome is just a temporary issue. There is no present danger for your baby. While your milk is different colored, you can still breastfeed because your milk is good.

The only issue you may run into is your baby spitting up more frequently because of the blood. If your child has blood stools, stay calm because you know the source. However, if it continues, talk to your doctor.

There is no way to treat rusty pipe syndrome or vascular engorgement. As the days go on, your milk production will increase, and your milk transitions into breastmilk from colostrum. During this period, it will only take a few days before your milk is normal colored.

Mastitis

Mastitis can occur at any point during lactation, but it is more common in the first few weeks of breastfeeding. The pain, heat, and swelling can be intense.

You may notice some angry, red streaks on the affected area of your breast. Mastitis is usually accompanied by a fever of 101.3F degrees or more. You may feel like you have the flu, with body aches and chills.

To treat mastitis, you need to nurse your baby frequently. Try to get as much rest as possible and take some pain reliever if needed.

If your symptoms don’t improve after 24 hours, or you feel very ill, you are going to need an antibiotic to kill the infection.

Is Breastmilk with Blood in It Safe for Baby to Drink?

Upon discovery of blood in your breastmilk, you will probably be worried that your breastmilk is not safe for your baby to drink. Rest assured; your child can still breastfeed, and you can still safely pump milk for your infant.

Most of the time, the amount of blood in the milk is minimal. However, if you are bleeding a good amount, your baby may refuse to breastfeed because blood can alter the taste of the milk.

Is There Blood in Your Baby’s Diaper as Well?

You may notice your baby’s poop is changing colors, which is normal if there is blood in your breast milk. It may be a darker color or you may notice some trace amounts of blood in their diaper. This is normal because you know the source of the blood.

However, bloody poop is not normal if the source is unknown. If you see blood in your baby’s diaper and don’t know the source, contact your doctor immediately.

What to Do When You Find Blood in Your Breastmilk

The first thing to do is not to get too concerned too quickly. Most of the reasons listed above will resolve themselves over time. However, if you suspect you have an Intraductal papilloma or breast cancer, seeking a doctor is the best course of action.

On the other hand, if you don’t suspect either one of those issues, the bleeding can be resolved at home or with the help of a doctor. Cracked and broken nipples are the top reason for blood in breastmilk.

If you feel pain when your baby latches onto your nipple, there is a good chance you have a crack. Milk blisters are also little painful spots on your nipple that can cause bleeding.

Broken capillaries need time to heal and are formed when your breast is injured. If you make a mistake while pumping, a broken capillary can happen. Hand expressing, if incorrectly done, can cause broken capillaries. If you suspect this was the problem, realize you need time to heal. Contact a lactation consultant or research proper pumping or hand expressing techniques.

Watch your baby for signs of discomfort from the blood. More than likely, your baby will be okay. Don’t be surprised if their poop changes colors. In a few days, your nipple bleeding will be done, and their stomachs (and poop) will be as well.

Do you have any questions? If so, please post them in the comments. Don’t forget to share with your friends who may be breastfeeding.

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Hi! I’m Serena. The first time that I knew the term “being mommy” was fantastic and unforgettable. It brought me a lot of changes in my body, my habit, my feeling and my whole life. I started Kittymoms in order to share my knowledge and experience to those who are first-time mommies and who have a long time to be back to mom's work, all who need to search advice during the time taking care of their babies.
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