Summer is almost here and that means we’ve got strawberries on the brain. When we first heard the term strawberry milk it almost sounded pleasant. It gave off vibes like if Strawberry Shortcake became a mom and snuggled up to breastfeed her baby. But in reality it’s not so pretty. In the lactation world, strawberry milk is the term used to describe when blood from a mother’s nipples enters into the expressed breast milk. Did you shudder the way we did when you read that?
How Does Strawberry Milk Happen?
Breastfeeding might be natural but that doesn’t mean that it happens magically. Working together, mom and baby are learning a complicated new language, and that can sometimes leave mom’s skin a bit raw, chaffed, and in some cases, cracked. Babies require constant feeding and that doesn’t give mom much time for healing in between sessions.
Skipping feedings to get more time to heal can affect your breast milk supply. And thus, strawberry milk, or a little bit of blood getting into the bottle of milk can happen.
In some cases, this trace amount of blood can also be the result of an infection.
What Should I Do if My Milk Is Pink?
Because stopping would mean the end of your breastfeeding journey, nipple pain and/or trauma can be a stressful situation. First, we recommend seeing a lactation professional or your healthcare provider. This consultation can help to rule out infection or other causes for strawberry milk.
The second reason to speak with a trained professional, is that they have a number of different things that they can suggest to help make breastfeeding (nursing and pumping) more comfortable while also promoting healing.
Can I Feed My Baby if I’m Bleeding?
The general answer is, yes this milk is safe to feed to your baby. If you have a blood borne infection, then the answer would be no, you could transmit the infection to your baby. Speaking with your healthcare provider can help to address any concerns about infection or milk safety for your baby.
What Causes Strawberry Milk?
If your are nursing, there are a number of factors that can affect your baby’s latch from tongue ties, to your nursing position, and far beyond. We have a blog post that you can read on tongue ties and one here on lip ties. Both of these conditions can impact a mother and baby and their ability to breastfeed. The good news is that there are noninvasive methods to help promote a better latch before seeking a surgical option.
The size and shape of a mother’s nipple tissue can also commonly affect a baby’s ability to latch. You can have inverted nipples, flat nipples, elastic nipples, and more.
For pumping moms, it can be a result of having the wrong breast pump flange size. Using a flange that is too small can be restrictive and cause painful friction. Using a flange size that is too large can allow too much of your breast tissue to be pulled into the tunnel and also create friction. In both cases, this can also squeeze your milk ducts and restrict milk flow. Because of this moms might try to pump for longer amounts of time or more frequently subjecting their skin to even more painful friction which can lead to cracks and bleeding.
You can find a full guide to flange sizes here. In this post you’ll also find a link to our flange sizing ruler so you can get an accurate fit with your breast pump flanges.
Making micro adjustments can help you identify what is causing this trauma to your sensitive skin and allow you to heal while saving your breastfeeding journey.