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by: Kimberly Bowman

There you are, breast-pumping away while reading People. Ok, so it was The Economist but you were wishing it was People. When you glance down to revel in the collection of your one woman milk factory, you notice that the milk is a bit orange and there is bright red blood at your nipple. Bright red blood is generally not a welcome sight outside the body. Orange breastmilk, for that matter, isn’t in the realm of welcome sights either. In this situation however, it is likely that there is nothing to worry about.

There are many reasons why blood can present in breastmilk. The most common is ruptured capillaries close to the surface in the nipple. Vascular engorgement will cause the “rusty-pipe” look to milk as mentioned above. The changes that breasts go through during pregnancy and the increased blood flow can cause this phenomenon. First time mothers are the most common sufferers and generally they experience this in both breasts. Nipples that have become cracked can also be a source of blood. Latch is always the key to successful breastfeeding and getting your nipple far enough back in your baby’s mouth will prevent it being compressed against the hard palate instead of the soft one. Remember, it is breastfeeding, not nipplefeeding.

Another reason, though less common, for blood in breastmilk can be intraductal papillomas, caused by fibrocystic breast disease. These benign lumps are located in the milk ducts and cannot be felt. This generally occurs in only one breast and resolves on its own.

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While it can be downright frightening to see blood in your breastmilk, think of the simplest explanation first. The small amount of blood will not harm your baby and you are encouraged to continue pumping and breastfeeding. Should this condition last for more that two weeks after birth, consult your doctor and a lactation specialist about the next step.

When you embark on any journey in life, one of the most important things you must take along is your sense of humor. While we discussed blood in breastmilk here, the fact is that we’re still talking about boobs and that is funny. There are plenty of things in life to cry about. Make sure you are really dealing with one of those things before you start shedding the tears. First, laugh out loud at your rusty pipes. Then pay attention, give it some time and proceed with caution.

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