9 Reasons You Have Purple Nipples After Pumping

There are a number of possible reasons why you might have purple nipples after pumping. The most prevalent cause of discoloration of the nipple during pumping or feeding is due to:

  • The blood vessels constrict and restrict blood flow to the skin
  • Using the wrong flang size
  • Pumping for too long at one time
  • Having the suction and/or speed too high

(this post may contain affiliate links)

Why does your nipple change color while pumping?

Many mothers worry when they see their nipples turn purple while pumping or breastfeeding. However, in most cases, this is perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about.

The majority of discoloration is caused by blood vessels shrinking and restricting blood flow to the skin. If you are concerned about the appearance of your nipples or it is painful, however, there are a few things you can do to help. First, make sure that you are using a correct fit breast pump flange.

A too-small flange can cause irritation and even bruising. Second, try using a lanolin-based nipple cream to help soothe any soreness or discomfort. Lastly, if you are still concerned, consult with a lactation specialist or your healthcare provider.

Possible reasons why your nipples turn purple from pumping

Nipples turning purple from pumping could happen from several reasons. Here are a few possibilities:

1. The flange is too big

When choosing the right flange size, it’s important to make sure that the nipple doesn’t get caught in the tunnel of the flange.

If you can see more than ¼ inch of the areola in the tunnel of the flange, it’s likely that the flange is too big. Pumping should be pain-free so be sure to check the size of the flange if you are experiencing any pain while you pump.

You may need to try a smaller size flange or want to experiment with different types of breast shields until you find one that is comfortable for you. Don’t give up though, there’s definitely a breast shield out there that will work for you!

2. The flange is too small

If you are exclusively pumping, flange sizing is important, and be aware of changes in your nipples, as they can be an early sign of a problem. Discoloration of the nipple during or after pumping is a cause for concern, as it may indicate that the nipple is not getting enough blood flow.

Additionally, it is critical to determine if the nipple is misshapen. Examine whether, after pumping, the tip of the nipple has an angular form, similar to that of a new lipstick, rather than a rounded shape. If you notice any changes in your nipples, try a larger-sized flange.

Always consult with a lactation specialist or your healthcare provider to ensure that you are able to continue breastfeeding and pump successfully.

3. Placing the breast pump incorrectly

After you’ve determined the flange size, the next step is to place the breast pump on your breasts correctly. The key here is to make sure that your nipple is in the center of the flange.

It should not be to the left or to the right. It should always be in the middle. If you don’t place your breast pump in the correct spot, you could experience sore nipples and even trauma and a bruise.

So take a few moments to ensure that you have placed your breast pump correctly before starting your pumping session. Your breasts will thank you for it!

4. The suction was started at the maximum level

The nipple may discolor due to a high level of suction, rather than the flange.

Lots of moms assume that the higher the suction, the better but that isn’t always the case.

When you first start pumping, it’s important to go slowly and gradually increase the suction. For some mothers, it may take weeks or months to get to a level of comfort with maximum suction. Never feel like you have to use maximum suction if it’s not comfortable for you.

Your let-down reflex could become impaired if you’re not comfortable or in pain. Use the minimum suction and work up as needed. If at any point you need to stop, that’s perfectly okay. Listen to your body and pump at a level that is comfortable for you.

5. Keeping the suction and speed at the highest level for too long

Any nursing mother knows that a breast pump can be a lifesaver. By expressing milk, you can maintain your milk supply, bond with your baby, and give your little one a healthy start in life.

However, it is important to use your breast pump correctly in order to avoid any problems. One potential issue is over-pumping, which occurs when you keep the suction and speed of your breast pump on the highest level for too long.

This can lead to discoloration and soreness of the nipples. If you are using a breast pump, be sure to pay attention to your body and stop pumping if you start to feel any discomfort.

You can use different cycle settings on the Spectra to get the most milk out in one session without having to be on the highest level the entire time. By using your breast pump correctly, you can ensure that you and your baby will enjoy all the benefits that breastfeeding has to offer.

6. Pumping session lasts too long

It is important to listen to your body when pumping breast milk. If you have gotten all the letdowns that you think you will get, try not to push it and continue to pump.

Pumping for an excessive amount of time can lead to discoloration from having limited blood flow and also cause your nipple to be sore. This can also lead to an oversupply of breast milk. A pumping session will range in the length of time it will take depending on the person and even the time of day.

Unless you are struggling with a low breast milk supply, you might not want to push the length of time you are pumping. Listen to your body and take breaks as needed.

7. Vasospasms

If you have a family history of Raynaud’s syndrome, then nipple vasospasm might be the problem. Vasospasms (also known as mammary constriction syndrome) can occur in any blood vessels in the body, causing the area to turn white and can cause severe pain. While this can happen in the heart, brain, hands, or eyes, it is most commonly seen in the nipples.

Along with the nipples changing color, you might even experience extreme nipple pain like burning or throbbing. The burning sensation can often be misunderstood as a yeast infection. Nipple vasospasms are caused by the restriction of blood circulation and can range from mild to severe.

If you are experiencing any pain in your nipples, it is important to contact your doctor to rule out any other potential causes like nipple vasospasms.

Be sure to contact a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider if you experience any of these symptoms.

purple nipples after pumping

8. There’s a defect in the pump

Like any piece of machinery, pumps can and occasionally do wear down. If this occurs, the suction will be affected. This can cause sore nipples.

Although having a malfunction doesn’t happen very often, it shouldn’t be overlooked and is worth checking your pump parts. Not many pumps come with a gasket anymore, but if yours does and it becomes worn out, this will affect the suction and can affect the comfort.

Fortunately, most pumps are designed to last for several years with proper care like replacing parts as needed. However, it’s always good to be aware of the potential for problems so that you can troubleshoot if necessary.

9. Elastic nipples

Elastic nipples are a common problem for women who are trying to pump breast milk. When the nipple stretches further than typical, it can be painful and cause the flow of milk to be restricted.

There are a few things that you can do to help prevent this from happening. Make sure that the flange size is correct. If the flange is too small, it will compress the areola and make it more likely to stretch. Also, use a breast shield cushion to protect the nipple from stretching.

How to avoid sore nipples when pumping

Here are some tips to help prevent sore nipples when pumping.

Olive oil or nipple cream

To help avoid sore nipples from pumping, apply some olive oil or nipple cream to the flange before each session. This will help to create a barrier between your skin and the flange, and will also help to keep your nipples lubricated.

In addition, make sure to clean the flange after each use, and if you notice any redness or irritation, consult with a lactation consultant or your doctor. With a little bit of preparation, you can enjoy hassle-free pumping sessions.

Use breast milk

If you’re a breastfeeding mom, you may have considered using your own breast milk to soothe sore nipples. And there’s good reason to believe that it could help!

Breast milk contains many protective components. These include anti-inflammatory and anti-infective properties. So these properties could have a positive effect on the nipple. In addition, breast milk is easily absorbed by the skin, so it won’t leave you feeling sticky or uncomfortable.

If you do decide to try this remedy, simply apply the breast milk liberally to the affected area after each feeding or pumping session. You should see a noticeable improvement within a few days.

purple nipples after pumping

Final thoughts

So, what causes your nipples to change color while pumping? There are a few different reasons that this might happen. One possibility is nipple vasospasms. Vasospasms are caused by the restriction of blood circulation and can range from mild to severe.

If you are experiencing any pain in your nipples, it is important to contact your doctor to rule out any other possible causes. Other potential causes of purple nipples from pumping include Raynaud’s phenomenon, a reaction to the pump, or an underlying medical condition. If you are concerned about your symptoms during your breastfeeding journey, be sure to consult with your doctor.

About the author

Lacy Reason is a highly experienced and compassionate lactation counselor, who has dedicated her career to educating and supporting new mothers on their breastfeeding journey.