Can I breastfeed if there is blood in my milk?

Fortunately, babies are pretty resilient when it comes to blood-tinged milk. In fact, cracked, bleeding nipples are more of a concern for mothers than for babies. There is no need to stop breastfeeding. Identifying the cause, however, is crucial to preventing further damage. Since a poorly positioned baby is the most likely culprit, you might want to review these positioning tips. For more on sore nipples and how to treat them go here

While blood-tinged milk can usually be traced to a damaged nipple, less common causes include intraductal papilloma (a benign tumor in a milk duct) or "rusty pipe syndrome". Rusty pipe syndrome (named for the brown color of the milk) is more likely to occur in first-time mothers. The milk gets its color from an accumulation of old blood in the milk ducts of some mothers. Rusty pipe syndrome is painless and often goes unnoticed, unless a mother expresses her milk or her baby spits out some milk. It typically appears during the last weeks of pregnancy or the first days after birth and lasts a day or two. 

Continued bleeding can be a sign of breast cancer, so if the bleeding persists for more than 5–7 days or the cause of the bleeding is unclear, contact your health care provider right away.

Last updated July 11, 2020

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