Our bodies are fascinating wonders, and one of the mysteries is how things we touch and taste can change how we look, as well as the look of things our bodies produce. And it should come as no surprise, breast milk is no exception to that rule.
I like to tell the moms I work with that, “If it can change the color of your urine, your tongue, or your clothes, it can probably change the color of your milk.”
But with most things, the reasons behind breast milk changing colors are multi-faceted and unique to each mom. But there are some things to remember when you are trying to decide what’s normal and what isn’t.
Click here to view or print the full-size Breast Milk Color Variations guide.
What Are The Different Colors of Breast Milk?
- Yellow is the first color of breast milk mom will see, due to the fact it is colostrum-rich, containing many of the antibodies needed to protect newborns against disease.
- Concentrated levels of white blood cells, leukocytes, and Immunoglobulin A can also cause this rich, buttery appearance.
- Strongly pigmented foods such as those with turmeric can also give a richer amber tone to breast milk, and that’s not a bad thing!
- It is often thought that how “white” milk appears has to do with its purity or fat/protein content, which is not necessarily true. White milk is most often a sign of lactation processing reaching full maturity in a breastfeeding parent.
- If you are eating a diet full of leafy and cruciferous greens, your breast milk may take on a green appearance. But that’s ok because these foods are full of vitamins and nutrients that are good for you and your baby. If you see green breast milk and you have not recently eaten green vegetables, it's best to call your doctor or IBCLC as it could be a sign of infection.
- And remember, it’s also possible that your baby’s stool will be green. As long as texture and behavior are normal, when you know you just had a kale salad earlier in the day, pat yourself on the back for your healthy habits, and consider this temporary dye job proof of them!
- Often not urgent, but often uncomfortable, red breast milk indicates bloodstream breeches, such as broken capillaries, or nipple damage.
- If you are experiencing pain, discomfort, or panic of any sort around the sensations you feel while breastfeeding or pumping, or the appearance of otherwise healthy milk seeming to have blood in it, it’s probably time to ask a healthcare professional if you should be concerned.
- Anything with a strong deep red or burgundy color pigment can end up pink when it mixes with white breast milk (like beets, cherries, and pomegranate (the most common and potent suspect)) may cause breast milk to turn pink.
- However, just like red or burgundy breast milk, it could be a sign of infection, so don’t hesitate to check with your lactation consultant or doctor if you have concerns.
- Lactose overload is associated with the release of milk that has less fat and protein, often appearing clear or translucent blue. This often occurs when someone hasn’t fed for a longer than usual period (more than 3 hours) from the beginning of the last feed. This can cause a clear or blue color to breast milk.
- If your milk is coming out clear, try gentle but dynamic breast massage, and moderate warm compresses to increase circulation. Try it before feeding or pumping and see what a difference it makes.
- This is one of the most unusual and rare colors, and unlike many of the other variations, calling the doctor to inquire about its appearance might be the first choice instead of last, as very dark breast milk is often a sign of prescribed medicine incompatibility, or possibly other more urgent health concerns.
Can What I Eat Affect My Breast Milk Color? When Should I be Concerned?
As previously discussed, if it can stain your clothes, your tongue, or change the color of your urine, it can also temporarily tint your breast milk! Things like:
- Beets and pomegranates
- Turmeric and saffron (anything else labeled “curry”)
- Dark leafy or coniferous greens
- Berries and food dyes
If you know you’ve eaten something healthy with a potent pigment and it shows in your breast milk within the next 24 hours, congratulate yourself for a healthy diet! If however you have not eaten something that corresponds with the (mild) changes you see, you or baby present with digestive upset or any other disruptive or disconcerting symptoms, or anything else doesn’t seem to match up with your or your babies presentation or observations, make sure you reach out for lactation and medical support right away to get all your questions answered.
Philip O. Anderson. Unusual Milk Colors. Breastfeeding Medicine.Apr 2018.172-173. http://doi.org/10.1089/bfm.2018.0015
About the Author
Leah De Shay, IBCLC
Leah De Shay graduated from La Sierra University and it was during her undergraduate studies that she found her passion for women’s health care. She completed her post-baccalaureate work in Lactation at the University of California, San Diego, holds a CLEC (Certified Lactation Educator Counselor) certificate, and is an IBCLC (Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant).
Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.