Unusual appearances of Breastmilk
What colour is breastmilk?
The colour of breastmilk varies. Colostrum is typically yellow and mature breastmilk is typically bluish-white. However, there is a wide assortment of normal in regards to the colour of breastmilk.
In most cases, the colour of a mother's breastmilk is nothing to be worried about. However, it's always a great idea to seek medical advice if you are concerned.
An unusual colour of a mother's breastmilk could be due to her diet. Food dyes in foods or drinks can alter the color of breastmilk.
This may be caused by eating a large number of strongly-coloured foods like beetroot. It can also sometimes signal blood staining.
This may be caused by eating a large amount of orange-coloured foods such as carrots, squash or pumpkin.
This is sometimes caused by ingesting large amounts of green (or even blue)-coloured foods like green vegetables, kelp and other types of seaweed in tablet form or concentrates of natural vitamins. Blue dyes in foodstuffs occasionally cause breastmilk to be green-tinged.
This can be caused by some drugs. Black breastmilk can also indicate blood staining.
This normally indicates blood or broken down blood products.
Bright white lumps
Often this is just the cream that naturally rises to the top of the milk if it sits in a container for any length of time. However, if there are a whole lot of fluffy lumps it can sometimes indicate early-stage mastitis and so speaking to your health care adviser is a fantastic idea.
Blood in breastmilk
In most cases, blood staining in breastmilk does not indicate a serious medical condition (eg breast cancer), but a mother should visit a doctor to get this ruled out. It can be normal to have blood-stained colostrum or milk in the first days after giving birth. This is most likely from a cracked nipple.
A less common condition that might cause blood in breastmilk is an intraductal papilloma -- a small benign wart-like growth on the lining of a milk duct, which bleeds. This not breast cancer and usually resolves in a few days to a week. It is still a good idea to discuss this with your LMC/GP. This is thought to be as a consequence of the growth of the ducts and milk-making cells in the breast and doesn't persist beyond about seven days.
Bright red, pink, coffee/chocolate brown, black or olive green coloured breastmilk may indicate the presence of blood.
Sometimes a baby may pass dark bowel motions or might spit up blood-stained milk. This is usually a result of the infant drinking blood-stained breastmilk instead of the blood coming out of the baby. Swallowed blood will not harm the baby, but tends to irritate the gut and makes vomiting more likely. However, it is always worthwhile seeking immediate medical advice in these circumstances.
A change in the taste and odour of stored breastmilk can happen due to an enzyme called lipase (which obviously occurs in breastmilk) breaking down fat into fatty acids. It is not harmful but some babies may dislike the taste. To avoid this, mums who find this occurs can scald their milk shortly after expressing to reduce lipase activity.
Some mothers have found that their breastmilk can smell like the food they've eaten (eg garlic). This is one of those great things about breastfeeding, as your baby learns about the flavours on your family diet even before starting solids. Other potential factors include food odours being absorbed into stored breastmilk in the fridge/freezer or storage containers being used. So long as the breastmilk has been stored correctly the breastmilk is very safe to use.