Published on 17th March 2023

Nearly every step in the parenting journey is packed full of surprises, and breastfeeding is no exception. For anyone new to nursing, it might come as quite a surprise to learn that breast milk isn’t always plain white. In fact, your milk’s color can vary wildly — from yellow and pink, right the way through to blue, brown, and even green breast milk — and every shade signifies something different. 

As a mother, you’re probably wondering if there’s an ideal color for your milk, and this is completely understandable — after all, we’re all just trying to do the best for our babies! Firstly, let us provide some reassurance: it’s completely normal for your milk to change color, and these hue alterations rarely signify anything negative. While it’s certainly reassuring to produce white milk, there’s no normal color per se — every mom is different.

However, if you’re curious to discover exactly why your breast milk’s appearance is changing, you’ve reached the right place. Below, we’ll discuss what the different colors of breast milk mean, their causes, and the rare occasions where concern is warranted.

What color should breast milk be?

Plain-white milk may be considered an aesthetic ideal, but we’re here to assure you that breast milk comes in many colors of the rainbow. As you and your baby progress through the various stages of nursing, you’ll find that your milk changes in both appearance and texture, and these changes are most noticeable during the first few days and weeks of breastfeeding.

Breast milk colors — the first stages of breastfeeding

So, what colors of breast milk can you expect to see during the first few stages of your breastfeeding journey? Let’s go through each stage:

Stage 1 (immediately after birth)

During the earliest stages of nursing, your mammary glands produce a substance called colostrum. Sometimes referred to as ‘first milk’, this orange-yellowish, nutrient-rich liquid is perfectly suited to your newborn’s needs, and is high in antioxidants and antibodies. Colostrum contains:

  • Immunoglobulin A (an antibody)

  • Lactoferrin (a protein that helps prevent infection)

  • Leukocytes (white blood cells)

  • Epidermal growth factor (a protein that stimulates cell growth)

  • Carotenoids (an antioxidant) and vitamin A (which give colostrum its color)

  • Magnesium (which supports heart and bone health)

  • Copper and zinc (which also support immunity)

Stage 2 (2-5 days postpartum)

Transitional milk comes shortly after colostrum. This stage can last between 10-14 days, during which you can expect your milk to gradually change from an orange-yellow color to a white as your milk matures. 

Stage 3 (10-14 days postpartum)

This is when you produce mature milk. The color of your milk may vary during a feed too, due to the placement of fat cells in your breast. You may have heard the terms foremilk and hindmilk –they are not different kinds of milk. The terms refer to the milk extracted at the start of a feed (foremilk) and at the end (hindmilk).

  • Foremilk: During the first few minutes of breastfeeding or pumping, your milk is thinner and and will appear blue-white or clear. This is known as foremilk.

  • Hindmilk: The fat content of your milk increases as you pump or breastfeed. This is due to fat cells 'sticking' to your ducts, and being pushed towards the front of the breast and into the milk. Foremilk and hindmilk are the same milk, but hindmilk has picked up more fat cells, because they dislodge as the feed progresses.

A breast milk color guide

Having established that your breast milk is likely to go through plenty of funky color and texture changes during those first weeks of postpartum — what about the coming months and years of breastfeeding that lie ahead? 

Even months down the line, the color of your mature milk is unlikely to remain consistent, but a little change here or there is still rarely reason for concern. Your breast milk color may be affected by any number of factors, including:

  • Diet: Certain foods may affect the color of your breast milk. For example, consuming beets may cause your milk to take on a pinkish tint, sweet potatoes might lend your milk an orangey hue, and loading up on green vegetables could result in, well, you get the picture. Food dyes in certain snacks and beverages (such as orange soda) have also been known to cause changes in coloration.

  • Medications and supplements: Some medications and supplements may affect the color of your milk. For example, Minocycline (an antibiotic) can cause your breast milk to turn black. Tell your doctor if you’re breastfeeding before taking minocycline.

  • Dehydration: If you’re dehydrated, this can lead to your milk appearing more yellow. 

  • Infection or illness: In some cases, infection or illness may cause the milk to have a bluish or greenish tint. Breastfeeding while you’re sick is just fine though — in fact, it actually has plenty of benefits for your baby.

Freezing your milk can also change its color — this is completely normal, so don’t be surprised if your frozen milk has taken on a more yellowish hue when you come back to defrost it!

With all of the above factors in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most common breast milk colors, along with what their causes may be. 

White breast milk

No surprises here! Mature breast milk is typically creamy white, thanks to its high fat content. While white is usually considered the ‘normal’ color of breast milk, this color can vary depending on a whole range of factors, such as foremilk/hindmilk imbalance or maternal diet and medication intake.

As with so many aspects of parenting, normal isn’t a particularly helpful descriptor, so if your mature milk isn’t a perfect creamy-white color, try not to worry.

Blue breast milk

Noticing that your milk has taken on a bluish tinge? Don’t worry; it’s quite common to see blue milk at the very beginning of a nursing or pumping session. 

Blue breast milk is actually called foremilk. Your foremilk is the first wave of milk that you produce when nursing — it’s thinner and contains less fat and more electrolytes. It’s this lack of fat that causes its blue coloration, and as you continue to breastfeed, you’ll gradually begin to notice that this color fades away, perhaps even changing to a more yellowish tone. 

Green breast milk

If you notice that your milk has a green tint, there's no need to be concerned. The color change is likely due to something you ate recently, such as a green smoothie or a lot of green vegetables.

Your breast milk will eventually return to its normal color, so there's no cause for alarm. Feel free to take this as a (slightly unnerving) sign that you’ve been eating enough fruit and veg. 

Black breast milk

If you’re currently taking antibiotics (such as Minocycline), this could cause your milk to take on a dark brown or black hue. While it’s certainly alarming to see your breast milk turn black, it’s very rarely a cause for concern.

Always let your doctor know you’re nursing before you start taking any kind of medication. Most medicines are perfectly safe, but it’s always best to check first as some treatments can pass through into your milk and harm your baby. 

Pink, orange or red breast milk

Consuming large amounts of foods that are rich in beta-carotene, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin, may cause your milk to take on a slightly orange hue. Similarly, consuming foods that are rich in anthocyanins, such as beets, may cause a slightly pinkish tint.

While it’s uncommon, pink or orange breast milk can also be caused by the presence of small amounts of blood in the milk, which can occur due to a cracked or bleeding nipple, a broken capillary in the breast, or as a result of the milk ducts and glands growing and developing. In some cases, the blood responsible for this growth may remain in the milk ducts, leading to its appearance in your breast milk.

In these instances, your milk may have colored streaks, rather than being a uniform pink, red, or orange color. The bleeding should naturally stop as your body heals, and it’s completely safe to continue breastfeeding. However, if your milk is consistently pink, red, or orange, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider to rule out any underlying issues.

Brown or rust-colored breast milk

If your milk is dark orange or rust-colored, it’s likely the cause is blood, either from a cracked nipple or from vascular engorgement. Occasionally, vascular engorgements can lead to traces of old blood being left behind in your milk ducts — something known as rusty pipe syndrome

In most cases, the bleeding will go away on its own in a few days. If it doesn't, and you continue to notice blood in your breast milk after a week, check with your doctor.

What does blood in breast milk mean?

First things first — a little bit of blood won’t harm your baby, but it's important to identify the underlying cause anyway, just to be on the safe side.

Some of the most common causes of blood in breast milk are:

  • Cracked nipples: When the nipples are cracked, the milk can mix with a small amount of blood, causing it to appear pink or red.

  • Infection: In some cases, blood-tinged milk can be a sign of an infection in the breast tissue, such as mastitis or a breast abscess. These conditions can cause inflammation and damage to the blood vessels in the breast, which can lead to bleeding.

  • Trauma: Any trauma to the breast, such as a blow or a fall, can cause bleeding in the breast tissue, which can result in blood entering your milk.

When to seek medical attention

Any blood in your milk is most likely to have come from a cracked nipple, but in rare cases, it could signal a deeper underlying health problem. If you’re confident you know why your milk has changed color, then there’s no reason to consult your doctor.

However, if the problem persists, or it’s accompanied by other symptoms (such as red, swollen, or tender breasts) it’s always best to get yourself checked out.  

Breast milk color FAQs

What color of breast milk is good?

There’s no ‘perfect’ color when we’re talking about breast milk — only what’s normal for you and your body. Throughout your nursing journey, you may find that your milk passes through a whole spectrum of colors, and this is completely normal. However, if your milk is reddish or pinkish, this may be caused by blood. This is usually caused by a cracked nipple, but if things don’t improve after 2 or 3 days, visit your doctor. 

Similarly, if you notice that the milk you’re producing has taken on a dark brown or black hue, it’s best to talk with your doctor to make sure the medications or supplements you’re taking are safe to use while nursing. 

What does the color of breast milk mean?

Your breast milk can change color for all sorts of reasons, including:

  • Diet

  • Medication, vitamins, or supplements

  • Physical health

In most cases, variations in the color of breast milk are normal and nothing to worry about. However, if you notice that your milk is consistently a different color, or if you have concerns about your milk supply or your baby's health, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor.

What color does breast milk turn when sick?

The color of your breast milk may not necessarily change when you’re sick, but it might appear thinner or more watery due to the increased production of immune factors. In some cases, the milk may also have a slightly different taste or smell, which can cause some babies to refuse to breastfeed.

If that’s the case with your baby, do your best to persevere! Breastfeeding while you’re sick is actually beneficial for your baby, as your milk will be jam-packed with antibodies. For more information, check out our post on the topic

What color is mastitis milk?

Mastitis, an inflammation of the breast tissue, can cause white or yellow discharge from the nipple which is sometimes streaked with blood. It can look a little like colostrum, but it is not breast milk. 

Not all cases of mastitis cause this. It is safe to continue breastfeeding with mastitis. If you suspect that you have mastitis, it's important to seek medical attention promptly, as this condition can lead to complications if left untreated.

Does yellow breast milk mean infection?

No, yellow breast milk is generally not an indication of infection. This coloration is completely normal and can be an indication of mature milk, which typically contains a greater concentration of fat and calories. 

I froze my breast milk — why has it changed color?

This is completely normal! Due to fat distribution, frozen breast milk often separates into a yellowish layer on top and a thinner layer below.