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Can a Lactating Woman Donate Blood?

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.

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