Is it okay to donate plasma while breastfeeding? Here’s everything you need to know, plus other breastfeeding tips for new moms!
If you’re a first time mom and breastfeeding, you’ll likely have questions about what you can do with your body.
Is okay to drink protein shakes?
Another question some mothers may have is whether or not it’s safe to donate plasma while breastfeeding.
Plasma donation is a great way to help others in need, and it’s also a decent way to earn extra money.
But, it can pose some risks to nursing moms.
Here’s everything you need to know about donating plasma while breastfeeding, and other helpful breastfeeding tips for new moms!
What is plasma donation?
Plasma is the liquid part of blood that contains proteins, electrolytes, and other substances like mineral fats, sugars, hormones, and vitamins. It makes up more than half (about 55%) of your blood.
The remaining 45% are red cells, white blood cells, and platelets that are suspended in the plasma.
The body needs plasma to support clotting, blood pressure, and cellular function.
What are plasma donations used for?
Most people understand the importance of blood transfusion but may be less familiar with plasma transfusion.
Blood centers across the country need plasma donations to treat patients with life-threatening conditions.
Here are some common uses for blood plasma:
- Plasma helps patients with clotting and bleeding disorders.
- It’s used for the emergency treatment of burn victims and those who have contracted rabies.
- Dialysis patients and organ donation recipients require plasma transfusions to help their bodies function.
- And, platelet-rich plasma is used for serious illnesses and medical conditions to increase stem cells and guide patient healing.
Who should donate plasma?
Most healthy people can donate plasma, but donors with AB blood are in high demand.
AB is the only universal plasma so it can be given to patients with any blood type.
The Food and Drug Administration also encourages donations from those who have recovered from COVID-19 as it could help vulnerable patients fight off infection.
The Donation Process
Plasma donation is fairly similar to whole blood donation.
When you get to the plasma center, you’ll provide identification and complete a brief medical history.
A staff member will then check your temperature, blood pressure, and pulse.
After the health screening, you’ll sit in a reclining chair and sterile needles will be placed in each arm.
One needle will draw your blood and pass it through a sophisticated machine to separate the plasma.
And the other needle will return the remaining blood cells and blood components to your body.
The entire process will take about an hour (a few minutes longer than donating whole blood), and includes registration, screening, plasma collection, and refreshments.
The 3 Stages of Plasma Donation
- Blood is drawn from the first arm and sent through a centrifuge.
- The blood components separate, and the plasma is put in a separate bag.
- The red blood cells and platelets are returned to the donor along with some saline.
Qualifications for Plasma Donation
Blood donors and plasma donors must pass certain eligibility requirements in order to donate.
Potential donors should be in good health and free of transmissible diseases like HIV and AIDs.
And you cannot be a plasma donor if you have a medical condition like high blood pressure or anemia or other chronic illnesses.
Here are the common donor eligibility guidelines:
- Be more than 18 years old.
- Weigh at least 110 lbs.
- Provide proof of identity (Photo ID) and address.
- Follow a recommended diet, including 50-80 grams of protein per day.
- Pass a basic physical exam.
- Pass a primary health screen, blood test, and viral test.
Healthy individuals may also be asked about travel history as part of the screening process
Can you donate plasma while breastfeeding?
The answer to that is a little complicated.
The World Health Organization advises against donating plasma while nursing and suggests a deferral period of 3 months after the baby is significantly weaned.
However, in the United States, the American Red Cross allows donations as soon as 6 weeks after birth.
There isn’t a major consensus on what a breastfeeding mother should do.
But, many agree that breastfeeding moms should wait at least 6 months postpartum to donate plasma. This allows your body time to recover and regain an adequate blood supply.
On the other hand, plenty of women do choose to donate plasma while breastfeeding and report no negative side effects.
Ultimately, donating plasma while breastfeeding is a personal decision.
Consult with your doctor about whether you should donate and how often you should donate.
And check with your facility before you go.
Plasma donation centers may have different rules and guidelines and they may withhold donations from nursing moms at their own discretion or require additional testing.
NOTE: During the waiting period for plasma donation, you can help out in other ways. Consider cord blood donation and breast milk donation.
RELATED: What Every New Mom Should Know About Postpartum Body Changes
To ensure the safety of plasma recipients, breastfeeding moms may be required to undergo HLA testing.
What is HLA?
During pregnancy, blood cells from the baby mix with the mother’s blood through the placenta.
And the baby’s blood contains different genetic information from the mother’s.
Because of that, the body releases a protein called human leukocyte antigens (HLA).
These antigens help suppress the mother’s immune system enough to allow the presence of “foreign” material in her body.
HLAs can be passed to donor recipients through blood and plasma transfusions and may cause a life threatening complication called transfusion-related acute lung injury, or TRALI.
Even a small amount of plasma may cause TRALI in rare cases.
For this reason, pregnant women cannot donate plasma and you can’t donate plasma too soon after birth.
Plasma Donation and Milk Supply
Plasma donation may affect a mother’s milk supply. And this is a major reason for the World Health Organization’s recommendations.
Common side effects from plasma donation are:
- Decreased electrolytes in the body
These conditions may make it harder for the body to produce enough milk.
So, if you’re already struggling with maintaining an adequate milk supply, it’s a good idea to hold off on donations until your baby is weaned.
Human milk is 87% water, so women need plenty of water to maintain their breast milk. And they should also focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet.
On the day of donation, focus on foods that are high in protein and iron and low in fat, drink at least 6-8 cups of water, and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
If you plan to donate regularly, consider adding an iron supplement to your diet, and avoid strenuous exercise right before donating to make sure your electrolytes aren’t depleted.
Don’t donate plasma if you’re feeling sick.
And, mothers are advised to avoid lifting their babies or carrying them with the arm used to donate. Any heavy lifting could cause excessive bruising.
Foods to Eat While Breastfeeding
- Avoid empty calories and junk food. These will leave you feeling hungry and won’t provide adequate nutrition or protein.
- Focus on whole foods like vegetables, leafy greens, and fresh fruit.
- Incorporate healthy fats like avocado, nuts, chia seeds, and beans.
- Eat whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, and whole wheat bread.
- Try low-fat dairy products to improve calcium.
- And eat lean meats like chicken, low-mercury fish, and eggs.
Here are some quick snacks to try:
- Overnight oatmeal with chia seeds
- Avocado toast with a drizzle of olive oil
- Boiled eggs with your favorite seasonings
- Tuna celery boats
- Whole grain crackers with nut butter
- Cottage cheese on toast with Everything But the Bagel Seasoning
Other Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
Now that we’ve discussed donating plasma while breastfeeding, here are some breastfeeding tips to make nursing easier.
- A good nipple cream like Lansinoh Lanolin
- Disposable nursing pads or reusable nursing pads
- A silicone breast pump
- An electric pump like the speCtra or Elvie pump
- Nursing tanks and tops
- Underwire-free nursing bras
- Breastmilk storage bags and bottles
- A good nursing pillow
- Nipple shields (great for treating lipstick nipple latch)
- A Nursing cover that hooks around the neck
If you’re hoping to build a breast milk stash, try using the Haakaa pump! It’s an easy way for a nursing mom to collect extra milk without a lot of extra effort.
You can also use the Haakaa pump to relieve clogged ducts and increase your milk supply.
If you have leftover breastmilk that you can’t or don’t want to give to your baby, there are several other uses for it that might surprise you.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Create a soothing breastmilk bath for baby.
- Use it to treat sunburns, bug bites, and diaper rash.
- Use it to heal sore nipples.
- Create breastmilk jewelry.
- Donate it to milk banks.
If your milk has a soapy taste that your baby refuses, you’re likely dealing with high lipase milk. Here’s how to scald high lipase breast milk to remove the funky taste.
RELATED: 20 Important Things to Know About Breastfeeding
The World Health Organization suggests waiting until 3 months after your baby is significantly weaned to donate plasma.
However, many women choose to donate plasma while breastfeeding. And there isn’t a clear consensus on what is best for nursing moms.
Ultimately, when to donate plasma is a personal decision that can be made between you and your doctor.
Pregnant women and women who were recently pregnant may have an antigen in their blood, called human leukocyte antigens (HLA).
This protein is important during pregnancy because it allows the baby’s blood and the mother’s blood to mix through the placenta without the mother’s body rejecting the “foreign” material.
However, HLA can be life-threatening if transmitted through blood to a donor recipient.
In rare cases, even a small amount of HLA can cause transfusion-related acute lung injury, or TRALI.
The majority of breast milk is water (87%) so any significant decrease in fluids may halt breast milk production.
A common side effect of blood donation or plasma donation is decreased electrolytes which can lead to dehydration.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the bottom line on whether or not to donate plasma while breastfeeding:
- Plasma makes up about 55% of a person’s blood and helps the body with clotting, blood pressure, and cellular function.
- Donating plasma is a great way to help others in need.
- Plasma transfusions can help people with life-threatening conditions like clotting and bleeding disorders, burn victims, rabies victims, dialysis patients, and more.
- Plasma donors must be at least 18 years of age, 110 pounds, free of transmissible diseases, chronic medical conditions, and in otherwise good health.
- Donating plasma while breastfeeding is a personal decision.
- However, the World Health Organization advises against plasma donation until three months after a baby is weaned. And many recommend waiting until at least 6 months postpartum.
- Donating plasma may affect milk supply. So women who struggle with milk production should wait until their baby is weaned.
- Breastfeeding women who do choose to donate plasma should focus on drinking plenty of fluids, eating a healthy balanced diet, and taking an iron supplement.
- Women who aren’t able to donate plasma can help in other ways like cord blood donation or donating breast milk.
If this post was helpful, be sure to check out:
- 3 First time mom books worth a read
- The latest breastfeeding statistics and facts
- Proven newborn sleep tips
- 15+ Genius newborn baby hacks
- The ultimate list of mom hacks
- 115 First birthday party ideas and themes
Did we answer all your questions about donating plasma while breastfeeding? Let us know if we missed anything in the comments!