Breastfeeding changing color? What does that mean?

by Melissa Portunato MPH, IBCLC

You finally got the hang of breastfeeding. You perfected baby’s latch, you’ve mastered the football hold while texting, and baby has a ton of poop diapers so you know your milk supply is right on track. But since you’ve started pumping, you’ve noticed variations in the color of your breastmilk. Your breastmilk went from yellow in color after delivery then to white when you came home and your milk came in. Now you started to pump and noticed the color of your milk seems off. Is this normal or have you started to produce milk for a tiny Martian? Before you totally freak out, we’re here to tell you color changes in breastmilk is a normal occurrence. Don’t pump and dump just yet mamas. Get the true story, bust the myths and breastfeed on.

Here are a few important facts to know about breast milk color variations and to assure you that your milk is perfectly safe for your baby.

Understanding the stages of breastmilk

During the first few weeks after delivery, your breastmilk will change rapidly in amount and in color. In the first few days, your body will produce colostrum, also called “golden milk” because of its deep yellow or even orange color. Colostrum is highly concentrated and nutritious. You will only make a few teaspoons of colostrum at first because that’s all that baby really needs to fill up their tiny belly. After about a week your milk will start transitioning and start to come in. During this time, moms will sometimes experience engorgement as their bodies begin to produce mature milk. Transitional milk will get less yellow and more white in color. You will notice your milk is not as thick as before and you have much more now. You might even be able to hear baby chugging while nursing. Gulp! The last stage of breast milk is when your milk supply has been established and is now in sync with baby’s demand. You are now producing “mature milk.” At this stage, you may notice when you first turn on the pump or maybe even drip a little before nursing, that your milk is clear and thinner which is called foremilk. And behind the foremilk, your breast milk is creamier which is your hindmilk (higher in fat). Both foremilk and hindmilk are essential to baby’s development. Research tells us that if baby is breastfeeding well and nursing sessions are not getting cut short, there is no reason for concern. Overall baby will receive a balance of both foremilk and hindmilk throughout the day and get exactly what is needed for an appropriate growth trajectory.

Colors and variations of breastmilk

Most color changes are caused by diet but things like herbs, nutritional supplements or medicine can also alter the color of your breastmilk. Taking a close look at what you’ve been eating can often pinpoint where the color change is coming from. A green or bluish tint can come from eating foods that contain dyes or overloading on dark leafy greens. Baby is literally tasting the rainbow when drinking breast milk. Research says breastfed babies are less picky eaters as toddlers because they try different foods through mommy’s milk. Keep with the healthy eating. You are opening baby’s palate to healthy nutritious foods and they will be more likely to eat them as they get older.

Brown or pink colored milk or even blood tinges in breastmilk can be coming from a variety of different reasons like cracked nipples, damaged capillaries in the breast, or even hormonal changes. The evidence shows, if you and baby are healthy, occasional breast milk streaked with red or pinkish in color, is perfectly safe to be given to baby. It is important to note small amounts of blood ingested by baby are likely not to be of concern, but larger amounts can cause baby to have an upset stomach and have blood appear in their stool. If you have an infection such as Hep B or C, or baby is immune compromised breastfeeding may need to be interrupted. Reach out to your doctor to discuss the best plan of action.

Rusty pipe syndrome is a temporary condition that can happen during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. This condition typically only lasts a few days and is caused by colostrum mixing with transitional milk. Don’t panic if you notice your milk looks like dirty or “rusty” water. It shouldn’t bother baby or affect breastfeeding whatsoever. If it doesn’t clear up in the first few days of breastfeeding or if it starts to happen later along your breastfeeding journey something else may be going on and it’s important to talk to your doctor.

Stored breastmilk and changes in color

Pumping and storing milk can alter the color of breastmilk. When storing breastmilk in the fridge you will notice it will separate into those 2 layers of foremilk and hindmilk. Fat rises to the top, so that’s why you will see the separation. The foremilk on the bottom might even appear bluish or grayish and this is normal! No need for concern and safe to be given to baby. Give the bottle a gentle swirl and it will combine again. Breastmilk will also change color in the freezer and can appear more yellow. This is also completely normal and your milk has not gone bad. Check out the CDC guidelines for proper milk storage to maintain the safety and quality of expressed breastmilk.

When to scream and call the doctor

Pain is not subsiding and you are seeing some pretty large amounts of blood in your breastmilk when you pump or in baby’s mouth after nursing. Call the doctor! Along with blood, you have hard lumps, fever, body chills and aches that are progressing. Call the doctor! Mastitis or “inflammation of the milk ducts” can be either infectious or non-infectious. Most of the time it’s non-infectious and can be treated with simply rest, frequent nursing or pumping, and lots of fluids. But when it’s infectious, you may see large amounts of pus, blood, or other wacky substances leaky from your nipples. Call the doctor!

Although changes in the color of your breastmilk is usually not serious, it’s always best to talk to your healthcare practitioner if you are concerned. Keep in mind there can be contraindications with some medicines, herbs, or supplements while lactating and they can also alter the color of your breastmilk. Download the free LactMed app! Review the evidence behind medications and breastfeeding with your doctor and make the best decision for you and your baby. It’s unlikely breastfeeding will need to be interrupted and in that rare occasion that it might be, it will almost always only be for a minimal amount of time. Trust your body. Trust your breastmilk. And nurse on mams!  

Working and Pumping: The Struggle is Real

What To Know When Returning To Work

Well, it’s sadly that time, when you are headed back to work after maternity leave.  Hopefully, your employer offers that necessary benefit. The baby honeymoon is over and now you have some big decisions to make regarding child care and feeding.  If you’ve been breastfeeding up to this point, there is a good chance you’ll want to continue providing baby with your milk. After all, it is recommended to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months if possible to get the continued benefits such as less frequent illness.  Before your actual return, try to be as prepared as possible. Make sure you know your workplace rights, have all the gear you need and have at least a general plan for how you will feasibly pump enough to keep up your supply for baby. Here are the basics to get you started:

Protection under federal and state laws

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law with provisions related to nursing mothers and pumping at work. The guidelines include employees that are not exempt under section 7 of the law.  This includes most hourly paid employees. The law specifically calls for providing a nursing mother unpaid (unless all employees are paid for their breaks) reasonable breaks with a private room for nursing that isn’t a bathroom.  If your employer is smaller than 50 employees, they may be exempt from this law if it causes them “undue hardship.”  For full details check out these great resources here and here.  If you aren’t covered under the ACA, make sure to check your state laws.  Twenty-eight of fifty states have some kind of provision related to breastfeeding.

Planning and educating yourself

First, figure out what laws you are specifically covered by depending on your employment from the resources above.  If you aren’t sure, talk to your boss, human resources, or a workplace lawyer so you can start making a game plan.

Next, equipping yourself with all the essentials for successful workplace pumping is key.  To maintain a good milk supply it is important to have access to the best possible pump. For time management and optimal pumping, look into getting a double, electric breast pump that is hospital strength.  Under the ACA, it is also required that your health insurance provide you with a pump (either a rental or single user depending on the model). There are several pump options available and companies that will do all the footwork for you to get you the pump you need with little hassle.  Spectra Baby USA is one of these companies with the added bonus of great customer service and lactations consultants on hand as needed.  Check out their page for a comparison chart of different pumps to find the best option for you and you can also check their insurance lookup tool that locates a DME (Durable Medical Equipment) company that will work with your insurance policy to get you a breast pump covered by your plan.

Lastly, consider any accessories to purchase to make your life easier as a pumping mom.  This includes items like a pumping bra, sterilizing tools, nipple cream, adequate collection bottles, freezer bags, and insulated tote to be able to get your milk safely to and from work.  Having the right gear will keep you organized and efficient!

When and how to pump: finding a schedule.

In general, you want to pump in a way that would mimic your baby’s current feeding schedule.  This generally means that a mom will have to pump every 3-4 hours. For a full-time employee that should be 2-3 times depending on lunch breaks and commute time.  How you want to schedule these into your day is completely dependent on what works in your day. Regardless, make sure that you try to actually schedule these times into your calendar to remind yourself and your co-workers.  It’s easy to forget or skip a pumping session if you don’t make it a priority and this can negatively impact your supply. If you are short on time one day, don’t stress and just try to get in as many short sessions as you can to keep the supply signal going to your breasts.

The last big consideration is your milk supply as your switch from breastfeeding to the use of a pump.  Your baby is much better at extracting milk from your breast than a machine, so if you have trouble initially with the amount you are pumping don’t be discouraged.  Keep these basic tips in mind: keep hydrated, eat healthily and frequently, stimulate an adequate let down with massage, heat or thinking of your baby (even look at a picture!), stay relaxed and comfortable and make sure you have the right size breast shield.

With the right preparation, you will manage the transition into a work-family balance well.  You rock mama! Keep up the good work providing liquid gold for your child while crushing those career goals.  

How to Deal with Breast Milk while Traveling

Traveling after having a baby is definitely a whole new kind of adventure.  The first concern that should come to mind is how to feed your little one, especially if you’re pumping. Whether you are exclusively pumping, traveling without your baby and need to keep up with your supply, or just want to bring a bottle or two for the ride: here is what you can do to make your traveling (particularly flying) experience easier.

Don’t check your pump.

It is not worth the risk!  Airlines are notoriously hard on checked bags and having a broken expensive pump will cause unnecessary stress.  Even with it as a carry on, it is always safe to bring a manual pump with you (just in case!).  The best news is that a pump does not count as a carry-on item but rather a medical device, so you can still have a normal carry on and personal item if it’s part of the airline’s policy.  It may be smart double check what you’re allowed to carry on with your specific airline since this is always changing.

Invest in good accessories.

Accessories are key.  Things like a good pump carrier, cooler, ice packs, extra bottles, a water kettle (if you need to heat milk for your little one), and storage bags will keep you on top of your breast pumping game.  What exactly you will need depends of course on how long of a trip you are taking. You’ll need a much bigger cooler if you’re gone for a weekend versus a week!

Plan Ahead.

If bringing milk, try to only bring what you need.  However, flying can be unpredictable so also be prepared.  Try to find a balance so that you don’t have milk that goes to waste but you also keep your baby fed if needed! Try to bring your milk frozen (unless you plan on using it immediately), as this will cause less of a hassle with security. Plus, it can be refrozen when you arrive at your destination as long as there is one piece of ice left in the bag!

Allow extra time in security.

Security can be tricky.  Make sure you declare your breast milk and your travels will definitely have a better start!  You will most likely need to go through some extra screens, which is totally normal. However, don’t let anyone claim they need to open your milk bags and request that they use gloves to keep your items sanitary.  There are always horror stories about women going through security, so if you can remember bring TSA guidelines with you (a screenshot on your phone can work too) to reference.  Some employees simply aren’t aware of the rules so it helps if you know your rights!

The 3-ounce rule.

Quantities of your breast milk can be more than 3 ounces per container.  There is no specific restriction here. TSA only states that it should be a “reasonable” amount. On the other hand, if you bring ice or an ice pack in your cooler they ARE subject to the 3-ounce rule, so plan accordingly. You can even have dry ice if it is specifically for breast milk.  Some people don’t want to deal with ice at security and simply ask for ice at a restaurant when they get inside the security gates. If you are returning from a trip with milk and don’t want to deal with any of these rules, look into courier options like Milk Stork to overnight your milk back home.

Find a place with a freezer.

When booking a hotel make sure they have a freezer you can use.  Call ahead if you aren’t sure. Ideally, there will be one in your room (some fridges can even get cold enough). However, you may be able to use the hotel’s main freezer if there is no other option.  If you’re struggling with hotels, booking an entire place on sites like Airbnb may be a great option since the majority of them would standardly provide a freezer in their kitchen.

Stay calm and carry on.

You’re an awesome mom for being committed to your baby’s health by providing breast milk!  Follow these steps, do the best you can, and all will be good! Traveling can be stressful, which can affect your supply.  Being prepared will make your trip significantly more enjoyable. If you are struggling with supply, use of your pump or any other details related to breastfeeding don’t hesitate to check out other blog articles here or talk to a specialist at Spectra Baby USA.  

 

What Happens When I’m Sick and Breastfeeding?

As a mom, being exhausted is a pretty normal part of having a new baby.  With lack of sleep and an intense focus on your little one’s needs over your own, there is a pretty good chance that your immune system will get run down at some point.  So what happens when you come down with the flu, cold, stomach bug or even food poisoning? If you are breastfeeding, it’s only natural to be worried about what you may be passing onto your baby and will most likely provoke the following questions:

Is it safe to breastfeed when I’m sick?

The short answer is YES.  For a run-of-the-mill illness, the benefits of continued breastfeeding far outweigh any negative ones.  The only two illnesses where breastfeeding is not recommended are HIV and lymphoma (HTLV-1), both very rare and unlikely to be an issue. If your doctor plans to manage your sickness with medications, just make sure they know you are breastfeeding so that what you’re being prescribed is safe for baby and won’t decrease your milk supply. You can consult the Infant Risk Center for specific medication guidance.

But won’t my baby get sick from me?

With any bug a mommy might catch, she is most contagious before symptoms appear and the body launches a full immune response.  Thus, chances are high your baby was already exposed to your germs before you started feeling sick at all. With your body now building up its own antibodies to fight the bug, these will naturally carry over into your breast milk to provide your baby the best immune protection possible.  Through breastfeeding, if baby gets sick they will recover quicker from the provided antibodies, nutrition, hydration, and comfort. While either of you is sick, don’t forget to follow standard illness prevention like washing hands, avoiding face contact and coughing away from your baby.

What about mastitis?

Mastitis is an infection of the breast that can lead to pain, swelling, and heat in addition to flu-like symptoms of fever and chills.  Although you may not be feeling well enough to breastfeed, it is actually the most beneficial thing you can do to fight the infection. Without regular milk expression, there is the risk of complications such as an abscess which can lead to further pain and being forced to discontinue breastfeeding earlier than planned. Heat, massage, rest, adequate nutrition and fluids and continued emptying of the breast thoroughly (either via baby or a breast pump) is key for recovery.

What you should do to recover.

Being sick while taking care of your baby is hard enough without having to add anxiety over the loss of milk supply!  So keep breastfeeding, eat healthy, and get enough sleep and fluids no matter what illness you’re battling. If baby is refusing to feed due to a change in milk flavor or consistency, use a pump maintain milk supply and promote optimal recovery.  Stay positive and know that you will get through this bump in the road with a little self-love while still being able to care for baby.  A little extra snuggle time while feeding is just what the doctor ordered!

Have further questions?  Contact a lactation specialist today here.

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Breastmilk During Disaster

What To Do With Your Breast Milk During A Natural Disaster

By Melissa Portunato, IBCLC

Dealing with a natural disaster can be extremely stressful. Here in the US, Hurricanes and other natural disasters threaten various parts of our nation.  With this comes the ominous thought that our precious, pumped mother’s milk may go wasted and on the other hand, that we may be faced with feeding our little one(s) during such a stressful time. You may ask yourself questions like How long will my milk be good for if the power goes out? How can I protect my freezer stash? Can I refreeze my milk? Don’t fret! We got you covered.

Losing your precious pumped milk is a BIG DEAL! Hard work goes into pumping and storing milk! Whether it’s a “date night” stash or a freezer packed to the brim, it’s YOUR milk. Your amazing body made it! It’s the superior form of infant nutrition and you want to keep it safe for your baby.

Check out these tips you need to know about how to properly handle your milk before, during, and after a natural disaster. Protect your precious liquid gold as best you can but most importantly, be vigilant and stay safe.

Tip #1: Get prepared. The Calm Before the Storm.

Before the storm hits, get prepared.  Start filling up water bottles, small buckets, and pretty much anything that will hold water and pack your freezer tight. The USDA tells us, contents in the freezer will remain frozen for 48 hours if full and 24 hours if half full. So don’t be shy about it and pack it up tight! Keep your milk in the center of the freezer and try not to open the door. You can fill up our Spectra milk storage bags with water and store them in all those small spaces. Turn your freezer to the coldest setting! If you know for a fact you will be out of power for a few days, pack your freezer with dry ice! This will allow you even more chilling time. Limit opening the freezer at ALL costs to protect the temperature inside and ensure it will remain safe for that 24-48 hour timeframe. If you can invest in a deep freezer (such as a chest freezer), that would be even better as the temperature can remain more stable (even lower temperature than a kitchen freezer), keep it packed tightly like mentioned above and closed!

Tip #2: My power is out now WHAT?

If you followed tip #1 , you will have on average (depending on how packed and cold your freezer was before you lost power) 1-2 days without having to worry about relocating your breastmilk. If you didn’t prepare, disaster struck without notice, or it’s been over 2 days and power is not back, it’s OK! Evidence tells us as long as your milk still has some ice crystals in it, it remains perfectly safe to be given to your baby. Some studies even discovered it’s likely your milk is still good even if it has completely thawed, as long as it has been kept cool for 8 hours it can even be refrozen! Ha-lle-lu-jah! But, please reach out to our IBCLCs if you have any concerns or questions about your precious milk before you provide it to your little angel.

Tip #3: I’m getting the HECK out of Dodge!

Call ahead to be sure wherever you are going has a freezer. This will save you lots of unnecessary stress! Any cooler will work, but it’s best to use a cooler that accommodates the amount of breastmilk that will be transported. Keeping it nice and snug will keep it colder longer. Tape the cooler too, just in case! You wouldn’t want the top to fall off, get lost, or shift in all the madness.

It would be awful if you would lose your breast milk stash but keeping your family safe during this time is the priority. Don’t let the transporting of your milk be the reason for a delay in an emergency evacuation. Plan ahead.  And if you do lose your stash, try not to beat yourself up about it. You did everything you could to save it. You’re an amazing mom! Focus on breastfeeding directly from the breast. If you are an exclusive pumper, keeping your baby close, skin to skin, can help stimulate your milk supply and help to replenish your lost milk stash. Plus, skin to skin can help calm mother and baby. Please remember you can always reach out to your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns, especially if you have a preemie or your baby is immune compromised.

To read more tips about disaster planning and infant feeding visit The CDC. Do you have additional tips?  Leave us your comments.

 

How Do I know If Pumping Is Right For Me?

When breastfeeding and pumping come to mind, the first thought that typically comes to mind is a mama’s return from maternity leave.  If you’re a mom, you know this can be an exciting transition back to some “normalization”; but, it can also be very stressful in trying to coordinate a routine that will keep you and baby on track for feedings.  This is when some peace of mind can be found in choosing the right breast pump. Finding what works best for each mom is simple nowadays with a company like Spectra Baby USA where you can compare and contrast top of the line Spectra models, get your pump covered by your insurance, and talk to certified lactation specialists.

In addition to returning to work, there are several other benefits of investing in a breast pump.  Here are the top reasons that you should consider:

Baby comes earlier than expected and needs to be in the NICU

We all hope this doesn’t happen to us, but if it does it’s great to have a plan in place.  Your baby’s tiny mouth may have trouble latching and need to be supplemented with a bottle, but that doesn’t mean it has to be formula. Did you know that the biology of your breast milk is so powerful that it will be perfectly tailored to your baby no matter when they are born?  Nothing is more therapeutic for these little rock stars than their mother’s own milk. Plus, once baby gets to come home you will already have a steady supply of milk!

For NICU mothers, it is very important to use a hospital-strength breast pump of 250mmHg or higher. All of our Spectra breast pumps are this strength or higher; so, rest assured that we have the pump you need!

Birthing was harder than expected on mom and/or baby

Whether there were complications, you and baby are having a hard time recovering from interventions or you’re simply exhausted it can be a struggle to get your milk supply initiated.  Those first few hours and days after birth are crucial for promoting milk production. If baby isn’t up for feeding yet, the good news is that a Spectra breast pump can mimic a baby’s suckle and promote milk production.  This knowledge can be a great relief and decrease your stress levels, another important aspect of breastfeeding!

Baby refuses the breast

This can be disheartening but, sometimes baby simply won’t accept the breast (before completely giving up request a lactation consultation with Spectra Baby USA here.  This doesn’t mean that you have to throw breastfeeding completely out the window.  Your bundle of joy can still reap all the benefits of your milk by sticking to a pumping schedule!

Issues with engorgement making it hard for baby to feed

This is a fairly common issue with breastfeeding, especially for first moms.  Baby is usually the best treatment as frequent removal of milk can help with the engorgement and ensure an adequate milk supply.  However, if you’re too engorged or sore for a proper latch a pump will definitely help to soften the breast prior to feeding. Just be careful to not pump more than a few minutes and then, offer the breast to baby.

You need an increase in milk supply

Increasing milk supply is best when planned for morning time or late evening hours when the breastfeeding hormone prolactin is at its highest.  Supplementing between feeds (or, within one hour of offering breast to baby) with a pump will promote increased supply if you feel you need a boost for your growing hungry babe.

You need rest or extended “me” time

Depending on how often your baby feeds, it may seem impossible to get out of the house without baby. Having stored milk means a significant other, grandma or trusted babysitter can stay home with baby and allow you to sleep, shop, or do whatever your heart desires without a baby attached to your boob. Just ensure that you are removing milk at the same time that baby is getting a bottle of your expressed milk; you don’t want to go longer than 4 hours without removing your milk.  Some personal space is what every mom needs from time to time to help them maintain some sanity!

As a new mother or a mother returning to the starting line, there is plenty of learning and adapting going on as you care for and love a tiny human. Don’t let the stress of whether you can effectively breastfeed be piled onto your list of duties.  If any of these apply to you, a pump from Spectra Baby USA will be a great addition to your pumping station for helping your little one thrive.

Shop our pumps now!

If you’re already a Spectra user, we would love to hear about your journey in our comments below.

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what to expect when pumping

What To Expect When Pumping

by Bonne Dunham, IBCLC

Pumping Milk…Am I Doing It Right?

First of all, there are A LOT of right ways to do it! Pumping is a learned activity that gets easier with time and practice. At first, most women are perplexed about ‘How much milk am I supposed to be able to express?’ Whether you are pumping to have milk for the occasional outing, pumping while at work, or perhaps exclusively pumping, it’s good to know what to expect. So let’s unpack some of these questions.

 

How much milk?

Most women who have never pumped might imagine that the milk just keeps flowing and you will have to stop pumping once the bottles are full. That is an unrealistic expectation and one that will likely leave you feeling like you have failed at this pumping thing.

 

Want some numbers first?  

  • Average pumping time: 15-20 minutes
  • How much milk can you express: .5 ounces to 4 ounces (combined sides). You may have heard that some moms can express 4-8 ounces, and it’s true, but that is a lot and more than average!
  • How much milk do babies drink: from 1 month to 7 months babies drink an average of 25-35 ounces a day, or 1-5 ounces per feed. It’s important to realize that the milk intake (nutritional demand) of the baby really doesn’t increase after 3 to 6 months of age.

 

Breastfeeding on demand, but wanting the occasional bottle for a brief outing?  The best time to harvest a bottle of milk for your baby is to wait at least 30-60 minutes after one of your morning feeds. This is the time when most moms will have their greatest milk supply. But please know, it is not unusual for the mother who is breastfeeding on demand to only be able to express .5 – 2 ounces per pump (not per breast), so you may need to pump a couple of times to get yourself that bottle you are looking for.

 

Exclusively pumping, are you? To protect your supply and meet the nutritional demands of your growing baby, you will want to pump at least 8 times a day.  Exclusive pumping works well for many women; but, pumps generally don’t drain a breast as efficiently as babies do. So, if you find that you are not expressing enough milk for your baby, you may want to consider adding a few other pumping sessions to your day to give you a boost.

 

Pumping to increase milk supply? Most women at some point during their breastfeeding journey will notice a dip in their milk supply. It can be very helpful to get extra stimulation and complete drainage of the breast by double pumping (both breasts at the same time) directly after a breastfeeding session. Pumping even 5-7 minutes can be helpful. This sends a strong message to the body’s hormone center to increase the hormones that help increase the milk supply.

 

Pumping tip: Get your hands involved with your pumping! Massage your breasts for a few minutes before pumping to wake up and warm up the breasts. Consider purchasing a hands-free nursing bra and do some breast compressions to maximize your output while pumping. The more milk you get out, the more your body makes!

 

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