Just when you think pregnancy changed your body enough for a lifetime, moms’ bodies adjust again to produce breast milk to keep the little one happy and healthy. And while breast milk is packed with outstanding nutrients and antibodies to help your baby grow, breastfeeding can sometimes feel like a mystery. You may notice that your breast milk is a slightly different color from one day to the next, but don’t panic. This is normal! Learn more about how the color of your breast milk can change throughout your breastfeeding journey.
What causes breast milk to change color?
Moms’ bodies are naturally made to adjust the content of breast milk to make sure babies get the nutrients they need when they need them. The first stage of breast milk is known as colostrum. This thin, yellowish fluid is rich in antibodies and minerals that are made to protect newborns from diseases. Colostrum begins developing towards the end of the third trimester and becomes transitional milk around three to seven days postpartum. Transitional milk will eventually become slightly whiter in color, as opposed to the yellow of colostrum, until it becomes mature milk, which is usually white with only a yellow or blue tint.
While your breast milk will change color over time as your little one grows, breast milk also changes throughout a feeding session. When using a breast pump to express milk, moms can clearly see the differences in color between the different parts of mature milk, known as foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is expressed first when a mom is pumping and is high in volume but relatively low in calories. This phase of breast milk is usually clear or bluish in color and is designed to help babies feel full quickly during a feeding. Hindmilk, on the other hand, is white or cream-colored and is lower in volume but full of helpful nutrients to help infants grow.
What foods can change the color of my breast milk?
While some changes in breast milk color are a result of the natural transition of breast milk, eating certain foods can also impact the color of your breast milk from one day to the next. Foods high in carotene, like carrots, yams, or squashes, may cause your breast milk to develop a yellow or orange tint if you eat a high enough quantity. Artificial red dyes found in sodas, fruit drinks, and other food items can also cause a pink or reddish color to develop in moms’ breast milk. Vegan and vegetarian mamas may be more likely to have a greenish tint to their milk, as eating a high volume of green vegetables like spinach and kale, as well as other green-dyed foods, can impact breast milk color. In some cases, pink breast milk can be caused by blood, often from cracked nipples. A small amount of blood in breast milk is usually not dangerous for infants, and it often clears up in a few days.
When should I see a doctor about my breast milk?
Some differences in breast milk color are normal, but there may be occasions when a conversation with a doctor is necessary. If you find your breast milk turning brown or black in color, it may be related to new medication or supplements you are taking. New breastfeeding moms must talk with their doctors to be sure all of their medications are safe to use while nursing. For many breastfeeding moms, a small amount of blood in your breast milk is not usually concerning to doctors unless it persists for a significant period of time. If the blood is due to cracked nipples that are having trouble healing, moms may want to discuss this problem with their doctor who can recommend a nipple cream or another solution. In some cases, however, blood in breast milk can be a sign of a more serious condition, like a breast infection or breast cancer. If you are concerned about the amount of blood in your breast milk or the number of times you have found blood in your breast milk, you may want to talk with your doctor.
Motherhood can be scary sometimes, and it may feel like something is seriously wrong if your breast milk changes color unexpectedly. But remember that breast milk changes color frequently, and you can always call your doctor or discard your expressed breast milk if you feel uncomfortable. You know what’s best for your baby!
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