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.  

© Copyright 2018 - Spectra Baby USA

Compare Spectra Electric Breast Pumps

Spectra Electric Breast Pump Comparison Chart

Shipping Information

All Pumps (used or unused) must be shipped back to us within the 4-day return guaranty—starting from the day it was delivered to a customer. All accessories (used or unused) that came with the pump must be included with it (when returned) otherwise their value will be deducted from the amount being refunded. All items/accessories to be returned within the 4-day return guaranty must be unused and unopened due to the personal nature of these items. They are non-returnable if the hygienic seal has been broken. Contact us to arrange the return.

e.g. ALL 1-2 deliveries will require a signature for release. 

*1-2 days Priority Mail Express (Note: Some restrictions may apply for more information please visit www.usps.com/www.ups.com)

*Please allows us at least 24 business hours to process your order.
e.g 2-3bussines days or Standard shipping are NOT guaranteed on expected days by USPS. (For more information please visit www.usps.com/www.ups.com)

Expedited shipping is not available for shipments to Hawaii, Alaska, U.S. Territories, PO Boxes, or Military APO/FPO addresses. Please allow additional time for orders shipped to these addresses.

e.g. Signature is required upon delivery for all orders above $100.00

*A refund will be processed deducting shipping charge. For any attempt to delivery, return to sender or refuse packed. 

We do NOT accept international credit cards or gift card. Please do NOT enter international credit cards or gift card because your account will be charged but you will not receive the product.  Spectra Baby USA does NOT sell, ship or warranty pumps in or out of Canada.  Not authorized for sale in Canada.


*The Postal Service does not provide a money-back guarantee if items sent via Priority Mail fail to arrive by the scheduled delivery date.

*Note: Deliveries may take longer–up to 40 days for APO, FPO, or DPO addresses.