WARNING: This post contains graphic content.
Blood is something we are not used to seeing in our expressed bottles of breast milk, so it came as a shock when Australian mum Tanya Knox looked down at her milk.
“It was quite confronting. I could feel mastitis starting to set in and my milk suddenly became really bloody, I had no idea I was passing clots until I strained the milk after pumping. My husband nearly fainted.”
While most of the time we will only see white milk come out of our pumps and nipples, there can be variations in colour including green due to medications or what foods we are eating. Sometimes women will see a light pink colour which is not due to blood but rather beetroot that the mum ate.
And yes, even blood can be in the milk if an infection is present along with puss or clumps of white milk. Tanya had been exclusively pumping and bottle feeding for four months when she noticed the bright red blood.
“I had pumped strawberry coloured milk before in the past but nothing like this, I’d heard of people expressing out clogs and clots but never experienced it until this happened, about four months into my pumping journey.”
When I shared these photos on my Facebook page there were a few comments from concerned mothers wondering if it was painful for her to express this milk.
“You poor woman!!! That giant thing came out of your nipple? I didn't even think our milk holes were big enough to house/release something that size!”
Tanya was quick to clear this up though, “Passing the clot actually didn’t hurt! My breasts were sore because I had a plugged duct and was fighting mastitis but passing the clot was pain free.”
While it does seem impossible something so big could come out of our nipples, blood clots and clumps of milk from clogged ducts are soft and can usually pass through easily without pain.
Expressing bloody or strange coloured milk can be scary, but it’s actually completely safe for your baby to ingest. Swallowed blood will not harm them, however it could irritate their stomach and if too much blood is ingested your baby might vomit it back up.
Tanya pointed out, “Even though the milk was safe and I’d never had known how bloody it was if I was nursing, I wasn’t comfortable giving it to my baby. Luckily I had enough frozen milk to add to the fresh milk from the other breast.”
The important thing to remember here though is that for the vast majority of us, if there is blood present in our milk we would not even realise it as the baby would just breastfeed as normal.
Exclusively pumping gives mothers a unique insight into just how dynamic a fluid breast milk is. Even if you see a light coloured pink in your milk, or you see the dramatic change and clots like Tanya did, you will be very surprised at how quickly it goes back to normal.
Our bodies really are amazing as you can see from the photos that Tanya has shared. Her milk went from very bloody (with blood clots) back to the familiar white colour within 24 hours.
The appearance of your breastmilk can change throughout the day and the blood can be happen for numerous reasons including mastitis (an infection in the breast) and the most common cause…c racked, damaged nipples. If you continue to see blood in your breastmilk it’s important to seek help from your GP to rule out any possibilities of rare medical concerns.
As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and a breastfeeding mother myself, I see on a daily basis just how incredible our bodies are. Even with plugged ducts, infections and bloody milk we can still continue to nourish our children with our milk.
While images like this might be confronting, Tanya wanted to reassure people who are both breastfeeding and/or pumping.
“I wouldn’t want people to be discouraged from pumping through a clog or mastitis. Our bodies are amazing. I’m still exclusively pumping at nearly 19 months so it certainly didn’t discourage me.”
Meg Nagle, IBCLC (“The Milk Meg”) is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, mother of three, author, speaker and blogger. She can be found at www.themilkmeg.com
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