Technically, yes, you can. However, most blood collection groups like the American Red Cross will advise you to wait until you are at least six week postpartum to donate blood, regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding.
Women who are pregnant should not donate blood, because their bodies desperately need all of the iron in their bodies to support their growing child. Being pregnant can also compromise your ability to make red blood cells. Severe anemia is often a root cause of premature delivery and low birth weight. It doesn’t generally make sense to risk the health and life of mother and child to donate blood during pregnancy.
Women who are breastfeeding have a little bit more leeway in deciding whether or not they want to donate blood. There are a few restrictions to consider before you take your baby with you to the nearest blood donation center.
It is generally recommended that you wait…
Generally speaking, it is recommended that women wait until they are six weeks postpartum before attempting to donate blood. When donating blood, it is normal to experience a loss of volume of blood in the body, which results in a corresponding drop in fluid.
Because of this drop of fluid, it is possible for some moms to suffer from a temporary reduction in the amount of milk they are able to produce. Moms who struggle to produce enough milk for their child may want to avoid donating blood so that they do not put their milk supply at risk.
Moms who have recently given birth may also be struggling with blood loss of their own. Six weeks gives them time to recover their own blood and iron stores. But some women don’t recover those iron stores, even after six weeks.
Breastfeeding does impact women’s iron stores, though in theory it should be in very small amounts (about 0.3 milligrams per day). This is a loss of iron that is similar to a normal menstrual cycle. Women who struggled with low iron issues before pregnancy and breastfeeding may continue to experience them. Ultimately, even if you are past six weeks postpartum, but still have low iron levels, you won’t be able to give blood.
To give blood…
Women need to make sure that they have good iron levels, that they are not currently taking antibiotics, and weigh at least 100 pounds to ensure that they are a good candidate to donate blood. Since iron is checked at the clinic before donating, it’s easy for moms to know whether or not they can donate at any given time.
Making sure that you have good irons levels
Having a solid iron level is a key component of being able to give blood, whether you are breastfeeding or not. If you want to be able to give blood, especially if you have struggled with low iron levels in the past, you should actively work on building up your iron.
You can do this by consuming foods that have high levels of iron in them, such as:
- Spinach (which provides tons of benefits but not too many calories)
- Legumes (loaded with nutrients and not too expensive, such as beans, lentils, chickpeas)
- Lean red meat
- Pumpkin seeds
- Shellfish (clams, oysters, and mussels)
- Liver and other organ meats
- Dark Chocolate
- Dried fruits like raisins and apricots
You should also consider consuming some sort of citrus or vitamin C foods (like oranges, dark green leafy vegetables, bell peppers, strawberries) at or near the time that you consume your high iron food, as vitamin C facilitates the absorption of iron into your body.
If you are struggling with iron levels, consider eliminating some of the foods/drinks that actually make it harder for your body to absorb iron, such as:
- High calcium foods, such as milk, cheese
- Coffee or Tea
You can still have these things, just not at the same time as when you are focusing on getting iron into your body. Try having your coffee after breakfast, instead of before or during food time.
But remember, you can consume TOO much iron. In general, if you are only getting your iron from the food you eat, it’ll be tough to cause yourself problems by overdoing it.
But if you are utilizing iron supplements, you can actually get too much iron, and this can actually cause some pretty serious health problems. Avoid using supplements unless it is truly necessary to keep your iron levels normal.
Are there generally side effects to giving blood?
Sometimes people who donate blood feel dizzy afterwards, lightheaded, or even nauseous. They might even faint! These symptoms are brief, as your body will replace the blood volume that was donated quickly, usually within 48-72 hours.
The red blood cells donated should be completely replenished within eight weeks.
But if you have children at home, you may want to make sure that you have someone around to help you keep an eye on them in the event that the lightheadeness doesn’t go away quickly.
You can expect some soreness or even bruising at the site where the skin was pierced to withdraw your blood, especially if the tech drawing your blood had a hard time finding a vein quickly. Sometimes people have a skin reaction to the disinfectant used to wipe the skin.
In general, you can recover quickly from blood donation by drinking lots of fluids, resting, and keeping an eye on how you feel for the first 24 hours after donation (meaning, this isn’t the time to run a marathon).
For more info about breastfeeding, check out our Breastfeeding FAQs post: 100 Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms.
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Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, all under the age of 10. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the US, Emily is a mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer when the kids are sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her personal digital journal or her post about failing her way to blogging success.