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Rainbow Breastmilk, yes that is a thing!

There are SO many colours of breast milk it can be quite shocking for new mums. When you’re used to seeing your breast milk appear one colour and suddenly it’s a completely different colour, there’s a reason for that!

Most of the time, breast milk is clear, white, blue-tinged, cream, tan, or yellow.  However, changes in your breast milk colour are often caused by foods, supplements, or medication you ingest. Here is a breakdown of some of the typical colours and typical causes.

Dark yellow breast milk
Did you know that your breast milk typically changes colour if your baby gets an illness? Mums often notice that their milk has a deeper yellow appearance when their baby is sick. When your baby breastfeeds, it creates a vacuum in which some of your baby’s saliva gets ‘backwashed’ into your nipple. There, it is believed that mammary gland receptors interpret your baby’s spit for bacteria and viruses. If any pathogens are detected, your body responds by sending antibodies into your milk.  This changes the immunological composition of your milk to help your baby fight those pathogens causing the change of colour of your milk. Your body is pretty incredible, isn’t it?!

Green breast milk
This is a colour that is often caused by diet. Foods that are strong in green colouring are known to cause a green tint to breast milk. If you’re a salad eater or green juice drinker, this could become your normal colouring. This is completely normal and nothing to be concerned about!

Pink, orange or red breast milk
Similar to green foods causing green breast milk, coloured foods are usually the culprit for pink, orange or red-tinted breast milk. Beets, red, yellow, or orange food dyes, blood oranges, and really anything with a strong colour that also may affect the colour of your urine can change the colour of your breast milk. Does your pee turn a neon yellow after taking your multivitamin? Chances are, your milk is also changing colour. You’ll be happy to hear that none of these are causes for worry!

Blood in your breast milk or “rusty pipe” syndrome
If you notice your breast milk has gone from “clean” looking to “rusty” looking, it’s usually caused by blood getting into your milk ducts. Rusty pipe syndrome occurs when old blood is left in your milk ducts after your breasts have been engorged. Often, your milk will look like dirty water from an old rusty pipe. Most of the time, this is nothing to worry about and clears up on its own within a few days. If you notice blood streaks in your milk, it could be caused by cracked nipples. If you do have cracked nipples, you’ll know, they hurt! Neither is cause for alarm, but if your breast milk doesn’t revert back to its normal colour after a week, it’s time to call your doctor.

Black Breast milk
Occasionally, breast milk may turn dark brown or even black. It’s usually caused by an acne treatment antibiotic called Minocin (minocycline) which should not be taken while breastfeeding. It is always very important to let your doctor know you’re breastfeeding and make sure any medications you are taking are safe to use while breastfeeding.

When to get professional help?
Most of the time, changes in breast milk colour are normal and nothing to worry about. However, if there is pain associated with the change of colour or you feel there is something more to be concerned about, please call your doctor, health visitor or lactation consultant right away. When you notice your breast milk has changed colour, try to think back on your diet or notice if you’re little one is starting to feel a little off. Most importantly, none of these colours are signs to stop breastfeeding. Your baby can continue at the breast as often as before and if they are starting to get a little sick, it’s even more important. Remember, you provide their defence and additional tailored antibodies!

Good luck on your breastfeeding journey and if you have any additional questions please feel free to reach out.

Content courtesy of Ardo USA.

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Posted on by Irene Essex

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