When the baby takes in blood from nipple damage

Should I breastfeed if there is blood in my baby's spit-up?

If a mother’s nipples are damaged, they may bleed when the baby is breastfeeding and the baby will take in some blood. This usually happens when the nipple is first damaged. Mothers may notice blood on the nipple or in expressed milk. It may also appear in the baby’s spit-up,vomit or stool (poop). It’s important to make sure the blood is coming only from the damaged nipples and not from another breast problem or from the baby.  

A) Describing bleeding nipples

Damaged nipples may bleed while the baby feeds or the mother expresses

Damaged nipples do generally not bleed when the mother is not breastfeeding or expressing. 

This usually happens when the nipple is first injured and is less likely as it heals. It rarely persists past a few days with proper treatment.

Mothers may notice:

  • There is blood in expressed milk.
  • There is blood on the nipple after breastfeeding.
  • The baby had bloody spit-up or vomit or it may contain black flecks (spots).
  • The baby’s stool (poop) is black or contains black bits.

Such bleeding, while scary, does not generally involve large amounts of blood. If there is a sudden opening in the skin, as with a bite or if a nipple has an abnormal shape and is suddenly ripped open, there can be a little more blood.

Please see your health-care providers if your nipples are bleeding.

B) Effect of swallowing blood on the baby

Damaged nipples that bleed will result in the baby taking in some blood

Taking in large amounts of blood can upset the baby’s stomach. This can be managed by removing red blood cells from breast milk. Taking in blood is unlikely to cause any other problems if the mother is otherwise healthy.

Mothers should also ensure the blood is coming from the damaged nipple and not from inside the mother's breast or the baby.