"It's Blood": Like Many New Moms, She Learned About Pink Breastmilk Through Experience, And The Taboo Topic Is Blowing People's Minds
New mom Jo Johnson Overby was about six weeks into breastfeeding when she noticed her milk had an unexpected pink tint. She called her husband into the room, convinced her eyes were playing tricks on her, before phoning her sister, who works as a pediatric nurse.
"Exhibit A. The color you'd expect, right?" she said in the video while holding up a bag of white breastmilk before switching to another bag she jokingly described as strawberry milk. "Exhibit B. And why is it pink? It's blood. Baby can drink it though. So, it's up to you whether you do it or not."
There were two types of people in the comment section — those who knew breastmilk could range in color and took delight in naming different shades of pink, white, and green they had personally experienced; or those who had never heard of such a phenomenon and thanked both Jo and TikTok for keeping them updated on everything people's bodies go through:
Mostly, other women discussed a general lack of knowledge about pregnancy as a whole and commended Jo for being open about her experience, because otherwise, they felt they may have not heard about blood in breastmilk until they experienced such a thing themselves:
To get to the bottom of why breastmilk can come out pink, I spoke to OBGYN and reproductive endocrinology and infertility fellow Dr. Emily Jacobs, who said, "The most common reason for blood-tinged breastmilk is damaged nipples from breastfeeding, like cracks or blisters."
"Alternatively, blood-tinged breast milk may be a sign of a breast infection called mastitis. This is typically accompanied by a red, painful breast and flu-like symptoms, including high fever and myalgia," she told BuzzFeed. "If someone is concerned they may have mastitis, they should call their doctor, as they may need antibiotics."
"Lastly, [and] very rarely, blood-tinged breastmilk may be a sign of a more serious problem, like breast cancer. If the bleeding hasn’t gone away on its own in about a week, or if the bleeding is associated with breast changes like nipple retraction, skin dimpling, or other skin changes around the breast, then you should seek evaluation by a doctor."
For those mentioning a wide range in color, Dr. Jacobs said, "It is normal to see the color of breastmilk change over time, especially in the first couple of weeks after birth. Colostrum, which is the first milk made during pregnancy and just after birth, is thick and yellow to orange. Mature milk is generally more white, similar to cow's milk. Green or brown-tinged milk may be a sign of a breast infection, like mastitis, as sometimes the nipple from the infected breast can make a purulent discharge."
Prior to having her daughter, Jo was initially and equally as surprised as viewers to see all the colors breastmilk can take, and that's exactly why she said she wanted to share her experience online.
"I have a lot of new moms in my life, and yet I had no clue this could happen until the first time it happened to me — I had no idea what a range of colors milk could come in and what they meant!" Jo told BuzzFeed. "I figured I wasn’t alone in that. [So,] I shared because I wanted to make sure other new moms know before having the moment of panic if they also pump 'strawberry milk.'"
For pregnant people who want to breastfeed, or for those who want to learn more in general, Dr. Jacobs recommends taking a breastfeeding class, either in person or online.
Dr. Jacobs also expressed an appreciation for moms like Jo who are willing to put themselves out there and share the very real things pregnant and postnatal bodies go through. "Breastfeeding has amazing benefits for both moms and babies, and I am so happy to see people sharing their experience online and normalizing it! It is incredible what the human body can do, and all patients should feel empowered to know how their body works."
"At the end of the day, if there is ever a concern, you should always bring it up with your doctor. I can guarantee in the world of obstetrics and gynecology, there is no such thing as an off-limits question!" she concluded.