Breast milk is Mother Nature’s perfect food for your baby, but just like a sous chef, things can go wrong in the kitchen (i.e. your body) that turns your milk colors. Sometimes, those colors are normal. Other times, those strange hues are a sign that something is amiss.
Before you panic, you should know that breast milk almost never looks like the cow’s milk you buy in the store. It’s perfectly normal for your milk to be a little orange, a little blue or even a little green.
Let’s take a closer look at breast milk colors to find out what’s normal and what’s not.
Table of Contents
- The four types of breast milk & their colors
- Normal breast milk colors
- Unusual – but not harmful – breast milk colors
- When should you call a doctor?
- Milk color may be caused by your baby’s health
- One breast produces different colored milk than the other
The four types of breast milk & their colors
Colostrum is the first milk your body produces just after your baby is born. This milk is chock full of nutrients, and may be clear or yellow/orange in color.
This milk contains antibodies that protect your baby from infection and help build up the immune system. It also has a laxative effect that helps move your baby’s first bowel movement and gets the digestive system going.
2. Transition milk
The body only produces colostrum for the first few days of your baby’s life. Transition milk is produced in between this initial stage and when you start producing mature milk.
Transition milk is more white or yellow in appearance, depending on your baby’s needs. At this stage, your baby needs a better balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
3. Mature milk
At three to four weeks of age, your breasts will start producing mature milk. At this stage, your milk will change to become thinner and more bluish in color.
If you’re pumping, you may notice that after a while of setting, your milk separates and the fat rises to the top. This is perfectly normal. Just mix or swirl the milk to restore its normal color.
Your milk may change colors here and there to accommodate your baby’s needs. And if he comes down with a cold, you might notice that your milk is a little more yellow than normal.
4. Weaning milk
As your baby transitions to solid food, your body will start producing weaning milk. Weaning milk looks a lot like colostrum.
Normal breast milk colors
Blue breast milk or clear breast milk
It’s perfectly normal for breast milk to be blue or clear. When we say “blue,” we don’t mean blue as a blueberry, but more of a bluish tint.
Once you start feeding or pumping a little more, the fat content will increase and your milk will get thicker and creamier in color.
Yellow breast milk
During your very first feedings, you may notice that your milk is yellow or even orange in color. This is called colostrum, and your body only makes a small amount of it. This is the milk that many moms call ‘liquid gold breast milk.”
Colostrum is highly nutritious and also provides your newborn with important antibodies. It can sometimes look like thin and watery breast milk, but most moms will find that it’s thick and yellow or orange in color.
What turns the milk orange or yellow? Beta-carotene – an essential nutrient.
If you’re seeing yellow or orange breast milk after the first feedings, it may be because you ate foods high in carotene, such as carrots, yams or squash.
Frozen breast milk is sometimes yellowish in color, too.
Unusual – but not harmful – breast milk colors
Green breast milk
While unusual, green breast milk isn’t necessarily harmful. If you’ve been on a health kick and upped your dose of green vegetables, this may be what’s causing your breast milk to turn colors.
If you’re juicing or drinking smoothies with lots of greens, your new healthy habit may be the reason.
The body takes nutrients from your bloodstream (which comes from the food you eat), and uses those nutrients to produce milk. So, if you’re eating more of those nutritious green vegetables, it’s not surprising that they’d wind up in your milk.
But green-colored milk can also be caused by iron supplements. Your milk may also turn colors if you’ve ingested artificial dyes, like food coloring.
Red or pink breast milk
It may be alarming to see red or pink breast milk, and it’s not as common as other colors. Typically, a pink or red tint to your milk means there’s a little blood in there. Experts say this isn’t harmful to your baby, nor is it a big deal.
Blood in the milk can be caused by cracked nipples, a ruptured blood capillary, or a bacterium called Serratia marsescens.
Pink or red milk can also be caused by the foods you eat, especially beets.
Black breast milk
Black breast milk may be even more alarming to see than red milk, but don’t panic – it’s usually not a big deal.
In most cases, black milk is caused by blood or medications.
While black milk is normally nothing to worry about, you should still talk to your doctor about it.
When should you call a doctor?
In most cases, a change in breast milk color is caused by the foods you eat. Supplements, herbs and vegetables are the most common cause of milk color changes.
Even though it’s normal for your milk color to change, you should contact your doctor or lactation specialist if you think something is wrong. Always listen to your intuition – it’s normally right.
Your doctor or lactation specialist will listen to your concerns and perform an examination if necessary to make sure you don’t have a serious underlying medical condition.
Milk color may be caused by your baby’s health
Sometimes, breast milk may change colors because of your baby’s health.
Take the story of one mom, whose milk was drastically more yellow in color than the milk she pumped the previous day. As it turns out, her newborn’s saliva alerted her body that her little one was sick. So, her body got to work, producing milk that was rich in antibodies and nutrients – just like colostrum.
Doctors say it’s not uncommon for breast milk to change colors when babies become ill. It’s the mom’s way of helping heal her little one, whose immune system is still developing.
A study from 2013 found that about 70% of the cells in colostrum are leukocytes, the white blood cells that fight off infection. It makes sense for colostrum to contain such high amounts of antibodies: Your baby has just been introduced to this world, and is susceptible to just about anything.
After a few high doses of immune-boosting milk, the levels of white blood cells drop down to about two percent.
But if mom or baby get sick, studies find that the number of white blood cells spikes again – up to 94%.
Those antibodies, or white blood cells, are what give your milk that yellowish appearance.
One breast produces different colored milk than the other
What happens if one breast produces different colored milk than the other? Is that normal?
In most cases, yes.
Most of the time, this is caused by foremilk. If you haven’t pumped or fed from one breast in a while, foremilk may turn it a bluish or clear color.