Why Is My Breast Milk Different Colors?
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WHY IS MY BREAST MILK DIFFERENT COLORS?
When your breast milk is different colors, it can be concerning. Moms have often asked me, why is my breast milk different colors?
What does it mean if I have green or yellow or blue breast milk? Is it safe for my baby to drink it?
Some of the reasons for different color breast milk are normal, and some can be concerning.
In this blog post, we will discuss the different reasons your breast milk may be the different colors of the rainbow and what it means.
WHAT COLOR SHOULD BREAST MILK BE?
Breast milk is usually white or off-white.
That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong if your milk is a different color.
Breastmilk can be an unusual color all the time. Or, it may be a one-off occurance. It may also have intermittently to some women.
WHY DOES MY BREAST MILK CHANGE COLOR?
A variety of things can affect the color of breastmilk.
The maturity of the milk affects its color. Maturity refers to how long it has been since you gave birth.
The first milk you have is called colostrum.
Colostrum is often talked about like it is a different substance than mature milk. While it does have a different composition, it is just early milk.
After your milk comes in it will usually be a different color than your colostrum. And the color often changes over the next couple of weeks as it goes from transitional milk to mature milk.
Other things can affect the color of your breast milk.
- Your diet
- The time of day
- Whether you pump before or after a feeding
- Illness – both in you and in your baby
- Some medications
WHAT COLOR SHOULD COLOSTRUM BE?
Colostrum is the first milk that a woman produces. You start producing colostrum during pregnancy, and it is the first milk your baby will get when he is born. Colostrum is the perfect food for a brand new baby.
Colostrum has a different composition than mature breast milk. It contains more protein and fat-soluble vitamins – A, D, E. It also has a lot of antibodies to help protect your baby from getting sick during the early weeks of life.
Colostrum is usually yellow. It can also be clear.
Sometimes colostrum is brown or red. When it is brown, we suspect that it is because of “rusty pipe syndrome.”
During pregnancy, there is increased blood flow to your breasts. As the milk ducts and the cells that make milk grow that extra blood flow can leak into the ducts. The result is colostrum that has a brownish color, similar to water from rusty pipes.
When colostrum is red, it is usually because of an injury to the nipple from breastfeeding or pumping.
The small amount of blood your baby may ingest is not harmful, and you can continue to breastfeed even if you experience some bleeding of your nipples.
BREAST MILK COLOR CHANGES IN THE EARLY DAYS
You will have colostrum the first few days after birth. Then your milk will come in typically between 48-72 hours after you give birth.
What is produced after your milk has come in is called transitional milk. It is what your breasts make as they transition from making colostrum to mature milk. Transitional milk is often a yellow-orange color.
After a couple of weeks, it will become more of the white color you expect it to be.
WHY IS MY BREAST MILK PINK?
Your milk will have a pink tinge if you have bleeding nipples after your milk comes in.
If breastfeeding is causing your nipples to bleed, I encourage you to contact a lactation consultant ASAP. It is never normal for your nipples to bleed while breastfeeding.
If your nipples are bleeding when pumping, you may have the suction turned up too high, or your pump flanges may not fit properly. It is also possible that both of these problems are occurring at the same time.
Consuming foods or drinks that contain red, yellow, or orange food dye can result in you having pink, orange, or red-tinged breast milk in your breast milk.
Foods that often contain these artificial colors include:
- Sports drinks
Eating beets or drinking beet juice can result in pink breast milk.
There have been some cases of bright pink milk being caused by a particular bacteria (Source). This is unusual, but if you have not been eating any foods that can cause pink milk, it is worth investigating this possible cause.
WHY IS MY BREAST MILK YELLOW?
As mentioned above, breast milk can be a yellow color in the early days when it is in the transitional phase.
The fat content of breast milk can also give it a yellow color.
As your breasts drain, the fat content increases. If you pump after breastfeeding, you will usually be pumping the milk that has a higher fat content and will likely have a yellowish color to it.
If you pump a little before breastfeeding, you will usually get milk that is white or may even have a bluish tint to it.
If you eat yellow or orange foods in color, like carrots or sweet potatoes, you may produce yellow breast milk.
WHY IS MY BREAST MILK BLUE?
The milk that flows at the beginning of a feeding or pumping is called the foremilk. It is high in water content and may have a bluish tint to it.
Sports drinks or candy that has artificial blue dye in it can cause your milk to be blue.
WHY IS MY BREAST MILK GREEN?
Green breast milk is not as unusual as you might think.
Eating green food is the most common reason for producing green breast milk. Think kale, spinach, or seaweed. If you use powdered green food like Purely Inspired Organic Greens, that may be the cause of your green milk.
Adding powdered green food to smoothies is an excellent way to sneak some extra greens into your diet.
Just like the other colors mentioned, artificial colors in foods and drinks can turn your milk green.
DOES BREAST MILK CHANGE COLOR WHEN BABY IS SICK?
Moms have reported that their breast milk gets very yellow or yellow/orange when their baby gets sick. This may be an indication of a mother producing milk that will help her baby fight the infection.
When a breastfed baby is sick, his mother’s milk responds by increasing the number of white blood cells that help fight infection. It is believed that this helps the baby’s immune response to the illness (Source).
Researchers have seen a similar response when mom gets sick (Source). So, if you or your baby are under the weather and your milk seems to be more yellow or yellow/orange than it typically is, this may be the explanation.
CAN CERTAIN MEDICATIONS AFFECT THE COLOR OF MY MILK?
The antibiotic Minocin (minocycline) has been associated with breast milk that is black in color. This medication has also been associated with darkening of the skin and staining of the teeth. It is probably not a good choice for a mom who is nursing.
Other medications can change the color of breast milk. Check with your health care provider or lactation consultant to find out if any drugs you are taking can cause changes in the color of your milk.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON DIFFERENT COLOR BREAST MILK
Although it can be unsettling to pump and see milk that is an unexpected color, most of the time there is no reason for concern. And if it’s because you are eating lots of colorful vegetables, all the better!