Guest blogger, Wendy Wright, is a lactation consultant and the founder of the 16 Minute Club.
Q: Really, what color is breastmilk?
A: The color of breast milk changes. Colostrum (first milk) is typically yellowish and mature breast milk is typically bluish-white. However, there is a wide range of normal when it comes to the color of breast milk.
In most cases, the color of a mother's breast milk is due mostly to her diet. For example, food dyes in foods or drinks can alter the color of breast milk. The changing color of a mother’s breast milk is nothing to be worried about. However, it is always a good idea to seek medical advice if you are concerned.
Pink breast milk
Pink will be found when mom eats large amount of strongly-colored foods such as beetroot. It can also sometimes indicate blood staining. See below under ‘Blood in breast milk’.
Yellow/orange breast milk
Had lots of carrots, squash or pumpkin lately? If so, you may have orange/yellow breast milk.
Green breast milk
Moms who eat large amounts of green (or even blue)-colored foods such as green vegetables, kelp and other types of seaweed in tablet form or concentrates of natural vitamins. Blue dyes sometimes cause breast milk to be green-tinged.
Black breast milk
This can be caused by some medications (eg oral Minocycline therapy for acne). Black breast milk can also indicate blood staining. See below under ‘Blood in breast milk’.
Red/brown breast milk
This usually indicates blood or broken down blood products. See below under ‘Blood in breast milk’.
Bright white lumps
Often this is just the cream that naturally rises to the top of the milk once it sits in a container for any length of time. However, if there are a lot of fluffy lumps it can sometimes indicate early-stage mastitis and so speaking to your medical adviser is a good idea.
Blood in breast milk
In most cases, blood staining in breast milk does not indicate a serious medical condition. It is common to have blood stained colostrum or milk in the first days after giving birth. This is thought to be as a result of the growth of the ducts and milk-making cells in the breast and does not persist beyond about seven days. Bright red, pink, coffee/chocolate brown, black or olive green colored breast milk may suggest the presence of blood. One of the most common causes of blood in breast milk is cracked nipples. A less common condition that may cause blood in breast milk is an intraductal papilloma — a small benign wart-like growth on the lining of a milk duct, which bleeds as it erodes.
Occasionally a baby may pass dark bowel motions or may spit up blood-stained milk. This is usually a result of the baby drinking blood-stained breast milk rather than the blood coming from the baby. It often looks like a lot of blood because the blood can form one large lump in the stomach, which the baby spits up. If you are concerned, seek medical advice in these situations.