Blood in Breast Milk: Causes, Risks, Treatment and Precautions

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Breast feeding is a vital part of parenting, to begin with. A newborn child is expected to first taste its mother’s milk and absorb all the nutrients from that. Some mothers also prefer to breastfeed older children. However, as much as it is an enjoyable phase of motherhood, breastfeeding also comes with some moments of pain and irritation. This is definitely not to scare you. In fact, this is a precautionary call so that you know what’s in store for you and be prepared to brave through the bumpy road ahead. At times, you might notice traces of blood in your breast milk. The first reaction that is naturally expected from you is that of utter shock and anxiety. However, given below are some of the most common causes of this situation, learning which you might be able to handle the situation better:

Blood in Breast Milk: Causes, Risks, Treatment and Precautions

Cracked nipples

Breastfeeding is quite likely to result in sore nipples due to your baby not latching onto the nipples well or if your baby is in an unusual position. Your nipples are not fuller and more tender that ever. Hence, the slightest irritation can result in cracking. As you feed the baby, you will thus notice the blood-stained milk that is secreted.

Vascular engorgement

This is a condition of bleeding nipples that arises due to a gush of blood abruptly flowing to your breasts soon after you give birth. Hence the first flow of milk from your breasts might be a light pink or orange in colour. This bleeding will naturally stop within one week of delivery.

Blood in Breast Milk

Broken capillaries

The finer blood vessels in and around your breasts are quite tender right after you give birth. Hence they can get irritated due to any kind of physical trauma. You have to be extremely careful while expressing milk from your breasts. Even minor aberrations can cause breakage in your capillaries.

Intraductal papilloma

This is a situation in which there are tiny, benign tumours that develop on the linings of your mammary ducts. They can cause some amount of internal bleeding and leading to contamination of your milk with blood. To examine the condition, you can gently press the area around your nipple to feel a mildly hard growth next to it.

Mastitis

This is an infection in the breast that might be a result of improper latching or missed sessions of feeding. The major symptoms of mastitis are fever, swollen breasts, redness around the nipples, and pain.

Paget’s disease

This is an extremely rare category of breast cancer that affects only about 2% to 3% percent of women, worldwide. In this situation, the blood that oozes out of the nipples, along with milk, is of thick consistency. The visible symptoms are red and itchy or scaly areola.

If you see even mild traces of blood in your breast milk, visit the doctor immediately. Abrupt stoppage of breast milk might not be good for the baby, and continuing with the same can have ill effects. The most common risk factors for the child, which come as a result of blood in your breast milk are:

Chronic diarrhoea
Jaundice
Vomiting
Viral fever with high temperature

Once you visit the doctor, you will get to know the reason(s) due to which you are discharging blood from your breasts, along with milk. During the first two weeks after delivery, bleeding can occur, but it is normal because of the strain on the tissues as they grow. You will have to keep a watch on your or the baby’s symptoms after that time span. Even when you are experiencing bleeding breasts, it is okay to continue with feeding the baby upon the doctor’s advice. Most of the time, in fact, the causes of blood in breast milk don’t require medical assistance, until serious and out of your understanding.

The most common method of rectifying cracked nipples is to cover it with a moist cloth and gently apply natural aloe vera or coconut oil when you are not feeding the child. Apart from this, you can also resort to pumping the milk gently and feeding the baby out of a bottle until you feel better.
In case of engorgement in the breasts, the best way to deal with bleeding nipples is to wear a well fitted nursing bra at all times, gently pumping out the milk for bottle feeding, and using hand expression. Doctors usually recommend the mothers to breastfeed as much as possible, keeping the baby in the right position for them to be able to latch properly. You can also use an ice pack or a pack made of chilled cabbage leaves right after breastfeeding, to ease the soreness around the nipples. And, before breastfeeding you can opt for a warm compress if the pain is persistent.
In cases that are beyond natural treatment, or even within the circle yet require medication, your doctor will possibly provide you with a list of antibiotics. Depending on your condition, they might either be mild or strong. Apart from these, there will be some breast examinations to detect possibilities of tumours, unnatural developments, or internal damages.

As much as following the medical or naturally healing processes are required, you will also have to be careful as to not allow this situation to recur. Some of the precautionary moves that might be useful in general are:

Breastfeed as much as you can

Keep the baby in the right position – talk to your doctor and know about the correct posture of the baby while feeding
Use a clean pumping machine to pump out the milk and store it is feeding bottles
Try to stick to gentle hand expressions as much as possible
Place some chilled ice packs on your breasts to soothe the nerve endings when not feeding
Follow a well balanced diet that is rich in multi-vitamins and minerals

As long as you follow the regulations and correct mechanics of breastfeeding, as instructed by your doctors, both your baby and should be fine. Make sure that you keep the doctor informed at all times, to avoid any complication due to delay.

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