Breastfeeding: Clumping milk

I am a nanny for a woman who just had her second child ten days ago. Her left breast (which she had mastitis in four times during her first pregnancy) has begun to produce something thick and coagulated. Sometimes it's thick enough to clog the breastpump and sometimes it goes through. When it's really thick it seems to have blood in it. Within the two ounces of thin milk was about a tablespoon of thickened milk. What could this be?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

This is a situation that isn't easily researched (at least in regard to human lactation). Though it is sometimes seen in practice, it is rarely mentioned in the literature. (We are just in our infancy in the study of human lactation.)

Clumped, or coagulated milk, may be present during a bout of mastitis. Clotted milk is considered to be a sign of mastitis in dairy cattle. Possibly, bacteria in her milk could be causing this clumping. It seems even more likely since she has a history of mastitis in that breast.

I would advise that this mother set up an appointment immediately with her Health Care Provider. He may want to culture her milk to determine the best method of treatment for the particular pathogen involved (if this does turn out to be the case.)

It is important that she continue frequent expression of her milk (as often as her baby would nurse), even if she decides not to feed this milk to her baby. Frequent emptying of the breasts is very important in the resolution of mastitis. Once any infection is cleared, if she would like, she could wean from the affected breast, and nourish her baby exclusively from the unaffected breast. Best wishes!

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