Guess what? Breast milk color changes and while many new mothers are often alarmed at what comes out of their breasts, it is very normal for the color and consistency of moms milk to change.
If you have only experienced the pure white creaminess of cow’s milk, then it’s likely that you imagine breast milk coming out with a similar color, thickness, and texture. If you’ve experimented with almond milk, soy milk, and other options now available, then perhaps you’re expecting more of a tan or off-white color.
The surprise is that breast milk comes in varying shades of red and green as well as those common milk colors poured from containers in your kitchen. Some women have even expressed black milk, so you never know what you’re going to get when your breasts start producing nourishment for your growing baby.
If you’re currently panicking over a strange odor or color that has recently come out of your nipples, take a deep breath and relax. This guide will help you understand the nature of breast milk so that you know when it’s time to call the doctor. Most likely, that isn’t necessary.
The Twists & Turns of Breast Milk Development
Your baby’s nutritional needs will naturally change with time. Amazingly, your body is aware of those changes and will make its own adjustments so that it’s always customized to your baby’s needs. Your milk will naturally go through the following developmental process as your baby continues to grow:
- Colostrum – This is the super-nourishing milk is only produced for the first couple of days. It prevents dehydration and protects your baby from infections and illness. It is typically clear but may have a yellowish or bluish tint.
- Transitional Milk – Your milk becomes thicker, smoother, and more plentiful. It may appear whiter, or it may have a slight tint that corresponds to what you’ve been eating.
- Mature Milk – This is the milk that your baby will enjoy until he or she is ready to transition to bottle feeding or a sippy cup. It starts out thin and kind of water and then becomes thicker and creamier due to higher fat content. This milk is perfectly balanced with fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to help your baby thrive. It can take on a variety of colors.
It’s common for breast milk to revert to the consistency and color of colostrum as a baby starts to wean from the breast. These transitional phases are rather general. It is believed that breast milk may revert to colostrum at any point if a baby becomes sick and needs a powerful boost for the immune system. This is displayed by the milk becoming more yellowish and changing in consistency. There are other factors that may impact the color of your milk, so keep reading for a better understanding of what goes into your milk.
A Reflection of Your Diet
The shift between white, off-white, tan, and other neutral milk colors will likely indicate changes in the natural composition of the milk for the benefit of your baby. When you start seeing colors that seem less natural, it is most likely a result of dyes and nutrients in the food that you’re consuming. Your food is broken down and then shared with your baby, and in most cases, these color changes are not harmful.
Breast milk colors are commonly influenced by many nutritional factors, including:
- Natural food colors
- Artificial food coloring
The Quick Breast Milk Color Reference Guide
Are you ready to identify the cause of your odd breast milk color? You may never know for sure, but there are some general color guidelines that may help you out:
- Blue – This is a natural tint seen in breast milk color even without the influence of food.
- Green – Commonly caused by the consumption of green vegetables, leaves and roots, blue or green dyes, and some supplements.
- Pink or Orange – Commonly caused by naturally colored foods like carrots or strawberries, small amounts of blood, or red food dyes.
- Red or Brown – This could be caused by food dyes but is often associated with blood. The blood may come from broken skin on the nipples or from inside the breast. In small amounts for a short period of time, blood in the breast milk isn’t harmful to your baby.
- Black – Usually caused by a medication that you’re taking, but dark brown milk that appears almost black may also be caused by dark food colorings or vegetables with deep coloring in the skin or fruit.
In most cases, these breast milk colors are more like tints than bright colorings. You may see changes in color from one feeding to the next, or you may see occasional colors that go away quickly. Always inspect your diet before you get overly concerned about a color change.
How Breast Milk Color Changes During Times of Illness
This moms shared her experience with the changes in breast milk color in her Facebook post here:
As she shared the frozen milk on the left is from a few weeks before when everyone was healthy. The frozen milk on the right is from the weekend when the baby swabbed positive for the flu!
“My breast milk created antibodies to fight off any infections that Raina may have had,” Paige Peterson explains, “I never gave her Tamiflu. THIS is why I breastfeed!”
Isn’t that amazing? Her body adjusted to help her baby fight the flu. (No formula can do THAT!)
When to Seek Medical Attention
In most cases, there is no need to contact your doctor over shifting colors in your breast milk. It’s even completely normal for your breast milk to have different smells from one day to the next. Ask anyone working for a breast milk bank, and they will tell you that smells don’t impact the nourishment delivered through your milk. That said, there are some instances in which you may want to seek medical guidance:
- You express black milk or milk tinged with blood for more than a week or two.
- Your milk is consistently a strange color that cannot be explained through your diet. You may want to write down everything that you eat to make sure that there isn’t a dye or natural nutrient that is causing the color change. If the color continues and you can’t find an explanation, it won’t hurt to check with your doctor.
- Your baby is crying when feeding or showing signs of not getting enough breastmilk
- You suspect that a medication or over-the-counter supplement may be causing discoloration, changes in texture or an odd smell. It’s important to tell your doctor every medication and supplement that you’re putting into your body even occasionally.
Try to have fun watching your breast milk color and guessing what is contributing to the changes represented in those plastic bags. If you happen to notice that your rich colostrum comes back right as your baby is getting the sniffles, take a moment to marvel at the amazing power of your body.
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