Can a Breastfeeding Mother Donate Blood?

This post is brought about a family concern that we have now regarding the condition of my husband’s cousin who’s in the Intensive Care Unit of the Philippine General Hospital, Manila. He needs Type A Blood donation. I really wanted to donate blood but my mother-in-law advised me that I should not do it since I am still breastfeeding Noa.

photo from www.guardian.co.uk

It triggered me to go and research more about this breastfeeding concern. Can breastfeeding/nursing moms donate blood? Here’s what two of my favorite lactation expert websites say about it:

According to La Leche League International:

“Whether to donate blood is a decision that is best left up to the individual. Opinions vary as to whether it is a good idea. The American Red Cross says this about potential donors, in their Blood Donation Eligibility Guidelines:

  • defer while pregnant
  • defer 6 weeks after giving birth
  • defer 12 months if delivery required a blood transfusion
  • accept nursing mothers

La Leche League’s sources differ in their opinions on blood donation for breastfeeding mothers. Dr. Gregory White does not recommend it. Dr. Jack Newman says any otherwise eligible mother who is not anemic can donate blood. The Canadian Blood Service does not allow breastfeeding mothers to donate blood in the first six months postpartum. LLL recommends that mothers consult their own physicians and make an informed choice.

“If a breastfeeding mother chooses to donate blood, she needs to be very careful to stay hydrated. Human milk is 87% water, and a blood donation takes 16 ounces of blood from the body. This is a lot of liquid to replace. All blood donors are cautioned to eat a substantial meal before donating blood and drink large quantities of water afterward. After a donation, donors are advised to avoid heavy lifting with the arm used to donate (to prevent excessive bruising). This may be a consideration for mothers who may not be able to avoid lifting and carrying their babies or older children.”

Kelly Bonyata of kellymom.com says:

“There are conflicting opinions about donating blood while breastfeeding. The US Red Cross okays blood donation for nursing moms after 6 weeks postpartum. Donating blood causes a small loss of blood volume (and therefore a loss of fluid), so there is a theoretical possibility for a short-term temporary reduction in milk supply. Moms with vulnerable supplies may want to avoid donation. In general, women who are not pregnant, have good iron levels (that will be tested before donation), are not taking antibiotics, and are at least 100 pounds are good candidates for blood donation.”

I’m actually a bit suprised at what I found out. Lactation experts have varying opinions on whether or not they encourage nursing mothers to donate blood. As for me, I decided not to since I could lose so much water in my body. As Kelly Bonyata have mentioned, human milk is 87% water. I think it is best to trust your mommy instinct on this, along with the medical advice from your OB-GYNE and your child’s pediatrician.

As for us here in the Philippines, here is the Eligibility Guidelines from our Red Cross.

What’s your take on this? Let’s talk.

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