It's natural to want to do everything right by your baby but sometimes, things go wrong and you need to reach out for help. One example of this is breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is a journey that can be filled with complications. Even when you do everything right, things can still pop up and feel incredibly overwhelming.
Blood in breast milk is one of those things. While it might sound super scary, it's more common than you think.
If you notice blood in your breast milk, it's good to take note and act accordingly. In this guide, we'll take you through what it means and what to do.
What causes blood in breast milk?
Finding blood in breast milk doesn't always mean a serious medical problem and it's good to be aware of possible causes.
Here's what you need to know about the causes of blood in breast milk.
Your nipples are damaged
Breastfeeding can be tricky and take a while to get used to, for you and your baby.
Sometimes, it can be quite difficult to get your baby to latch or you may experience times where your baby is feeding aggressively.
It's common to experience breast pain, sore nipples and a little blood around the damaged nipples. If your nipple cracks and is dry, blood can form.
For a cracked or damaged nipple, you can:
- Seek advice from a lactation consultant
- Use your other breast (if it is not sore)
- Apply a nourishing nipple cream like Kin Fertility's Nipple Balm to the cracked nipple
- Try cold packs to soothe the pain
- Wear a breast shell to protect your nipples
If needed, use pumped milk until the affected breast heals. This will allow time for your cracked nipples to heal.
This issue can usually be resolved without medical intervention.
Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue, which is usually caused by a blocked milk duct, and it can present with flu-like symptoms as well as blood in your breast milk.
Chances are your lactation consultant already discussed mastitis with you as it's quite common and is something you should keep an eye on if you're breastfeeding.
Body aches, nipple discharge, blocked milk ducts and tender breasts are all symptoms of mastitis and it's also likely you'll notice some blood in your breast milk thanks to the breast infection.
Seek professional medical advice as soon as you experience any symptoms. It's likely the issue can be sorted with a short course of antibiotics.
Noticing blood in your breast milk could point to something more severe, such as breast cancer. You'll notice bloody discharge or lumps and you might think that it's mastitis.
Breast cancer could be the cause of blood-stained breastmilk.
It might be a small benign growth, but you will need to seek immediate medical advice as soon as you notice the above symptoms.
Broken blood vessels
You have tiny blood vessels in your breast, so they can be sensitive to any new experiences such as breastfeeding.
Blood in your breast milk might just be from broken blood vessels and capillaries that have been damaged through a form of trauma like breastfeeding.
If your baby is teething, or you're not able to use the breast pump in the right way, you might notice blood-stained milk.
This is a natural reaction to breastfeeding and it usually sorts itself out as your breasts adjust.
What is rusty pipe syndrome?
Rusty pipe syndrome occurs as there is more blood flow in the area for increased milk production, which can leak into the colostrum or breast milk.
It usually subsides within a few days and shouldn't cause you any pain or discomfort.
What does red breast milk mean?
If you notice red-toned breast milk, there are often two reasons for it:
- The small blood vessels in the nipple or breast have experienced a rupture, which then leaks into the milk.
- The growth of a bacterium called Serratia marcescens. In the past, this bacterial infection has been linked to contaminated medical equipment as well as improper hand hygiene by healthcare workers and it can turn your breast milk a pink colour. Treatment with antibiotics is advised due to the risk of sepsis.
Can you feed your baby breast milk that has blood in it?
Swallowed blood from breast milk doesn't pose any major risks to your baby. It can point to health issues with the mother, but a bit of blood in the breast milk will not affect the baby.
If your baby spits up due to the milk, it's recommended that you stop breastfeeding from the affected breast for a while.
As long as you have a healthy milk supply and your baby is latching on, you can continue to breastfeed (if it's not sore and you've sought medical advice).
Is it OK to feed your baby with bleeding nipples?
Feeding your baby with bleeding nipples should be avoided if you're experiencing severe pain.
You don't need to be uncomfortable breastfeeding and it's okay to take a break and use a breast pump if you need to.
If your baby is super sensitive to changes in the milk and does consume blood-stained breast milk, it could pass dark-coloured bowel motions as a result.
This is most likely due to the higher iron content, but it's not something to be too concerned about.
But, if you're significantly worried about your baby's poop, then it's always best to raise this with your baby's doctor.
Be sure to treat your nipples to prevent further bleeding so you can continue breastfeeding without discomfort.
Kin's Nipple Balm is an all-natural formula that soothes and restores sore and tender nipples and is a must-have for all breastfeeding parents.
It helps build skin elasticity, combats dryness and prevents nipple cracking so you can breastfeed your baby in peace.
What are possible complications associated with blood in breast milk?
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
If you're experiencing other symptoms alongside blood-stained breast milk, be sure to have yourself checked out by a doctor as soon as possible.
Nothing is too small if it's causing you to worry about yourself or your baby. The breastfeeding journey can be filled with ups and downs and it's important to ask for help when you need it.