As all breastfeeding moms know, breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your baby. It provides all the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and development, and provides you and your baby with a wonderful bond. Breastfeeding and pumping can be a beautiful journey, but it can also be a painful and strange experience. At times, some moms may notice a pinkish or reddish tint in their breast milk. This discoloration is known as strawberry breast milk and is the result of blood in your pumped milk. It can cause concern for new moms and even experienced moms who have never dealt with this before. In this article, we will explore what causes strawberry breast milk, whether it is safe for the baby, and how to manage it.
What is Strawberry Breast Milk?
Strawberry breast milk is breast milk that appears pink or red in color, resembling strawberry milk. The color is caused by small amounts of blood or blood clots mixing with the breast milk. Strawberry breast milk can also refer to milk that contains small specks or streaks of pink or red blood.
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What Causes Strawberry Breast Milk?
Strawberry breast milk can be caused by several different reasons, including breast damage, certain foods or supplements, or can be due to an underlying condition. The most common reasons for strawberry milk are outlined below.
Cracked or Sore Nipples – Main Cause of Strawberry Breast Milk
If you have cracked or sore nipples, they may bleed slightly during breastfeeding or pumping. This can result in small amounts of blood mixing with your breast milk. Cracked nipples can be caused from an incorrect latch, poor nursing position, or the wrong breast pump flange size. See our article Does Flange Size Affect Milk Output? Yes, Here’s How for more help with flange sizing if you think this may be your problem.
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Engorgement occurs when the breast tissue becomes swollen and firm due to a buildup of milk. When this happens, the blood vessels in the breast tissue can become compressed, leading to decreased blood supply to your breast tissue. This decreased blood supply can cause the breast tissue to rupture, resulting in small amounts of blood leaking into your breast milk.
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Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue that can cause pain, swelling, and redness. Similar to breast engorgement, when the breast tissue becomes inflamed, the blood vessels in your breast can become damaged and leaky. This results in small amounts of blood mixing with your pumped breast milk. Additionally, the inflammation from mastitis can cause the formation of small cracks or fissures in your nipple or areola. These cracks can result in strawberry breast milk.
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Foods That Cause Strawberry Breast Milk
There are several foods that can cause red or pink breast milk. One common food that can cause strawberry breast milk is beets. Beets contain a pigment called betacyanin, which can give urine and breast milk a reddish or pinkish hue. Other foods that contain red or purple pigments, such as berries, cherries, and pomegranates, can also cause strawberry breast milk if eaten in large quantities.
Consuming large amounts of food or supplements containing beta-carotene, a nutrient found in carrots, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens, can also cause breast milk to take on an orange or reddish color. This is because beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, which can then be excreted in breast milk.
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Supplements That Cause Strawberry Breast Milk
In some cases, medications or supplements can also cause red breast milk. Iron supplements are a common cause of strawberry breast milk. Iron can oxidize in the body, which can cause breast milk to take on a rusty or red color. This is typically not harmful to your baby, but it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you are concerned.
Vitamin B12 supplements can also cause breast milk to take on a reddish color. This is because B12 contains a red pigment called cobalt, which can be excreted in breast milk.
Herbal supplements, such as fenugreek and red clover, can also cause strawberry breast milk. These supplements contain compounds that can cause blood thinning or dilation of the blood vessels, which can lead to small amounts of blood leaking into the breast milk similar to the ways outlined above.
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Intraductal papillomas are small, noncancerous growths that develop in the milk ducts of the breast. You may be able to feel them with your hands. They can cause bloody nipple discharge, which may be visible in breast milk. When an intraductal papilloma develops in the milk ducts, it can cause the duct to become inflamed and irritated. This can lead to the formation of small fissures or cracks in the duct lining, which can cause small amounts of blood to leak into your breast milk.
It’s important to note that the blood in breast milk associated with intraductal papilloma is typically visible as streaks or specks in the milk, rather than giving the milk a pink or reddish color. The amount of blood in the milk may vary and can increase during breastfeeding or pumping.
It’s important to note that while intraductal papillomas are generally benign, they can be associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. If you notice blood in your breast milk or any other unusual changes in your breast tissue, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and the appropriate treatment.
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Can My Baby Drink Strawberry Breast Milk?
Strawberry breast milk is safe for babies to drink. You do not need to dump bloody breast milk. Most cases of strawberry breast milk are harmless and do not affect baby’s health. However, if you think you may have an infection or a condition such as mastitis, it is important to seek medical attention for yourself as soon as possible. In rare cases, the blood in the breast milk may indicate an underlying health condition that requires treatment.
Be aware that if your baby has consumed strawberry breast milk, they may pass red or pink-colored stools. This is because the baby’s digestive system breaks down blood in the milk and excretes it in stool. This is usually not a cause for concern and does not require any special treatment.
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How Do I Treat Blood in My Breast Milk?
If you notice that your breast milk is pink or red in color, it is important to identify the cause. If the discoloration is due to cracked or sore nipples, try using a nipple cream or ointment (we love Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter available on Amazon) to soothe your nipples and prevent further bleeding. Applying warm compresses to your breast can also help to relieve engorgement.
If the discoloration is due to an infection or medical condition, it’s important to seek medical attention. Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics or other medications to quickly treat the underlying condition.
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If the discoloration is due to the consumption of certain foods or medications, avoiding these can help prevent further discoloration.
Strawberry breast milk is a common issue faced by many breastfeeding moms. It’s usually harmless and does not affect the baby’s health. However, it is important to identify the cause of the discoloration and seek medical attention if necessary. If you have any concerns about your breast milk, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant. With proper management, you can continue to provide your baby with the best nutrition possible–red, pink, or white!
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