Breastfeeding and Blood In Breast Milk

Information, Safety, Causes, and Treatment

What causes blood in breast milk

Verywell / Jessica Olah 

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 red to eat or drink such as beets or red fruit drinks. Either way, try not to worry. Your breast milk will most likely return to its whitish, yellowish, or bluish hue within a few days.


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 of vascular breast engorgement can seep into your 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 to continue 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 a breast pump correctly, 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.

Bleeding Nipples

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.

Possible Complications

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 and refuse 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 of noticeable 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 tiny amount 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 child is 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 painful and 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.

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.