How to donate breast milk

Many major health organizations state that breast milk is the healthiest food for babies in their first year of life. It’s the best source of nutrition as it contains stem cells, antibodies, and antimicrobial agents. It’s especially important for premature and sick babies who are 10 times more likely to develop necrotizing enterocolitis (a devastating intestinal infection) if they are fed formula instead of breast milk.

Unfortunately, fewer than half of moms who have a premature deliveries are able to provide breast milk for their babies. Some reasons for this are:

  • stress levels interfere with milk supply
  • medication taken by the mother may pass through her own milk and harm her infant
  • a medical condition that precludes breastfeeding, such as HIV.

In these situations, women are able to seek breast milk that has been donated and pasteurized!

Is donor breast milk safe?

YES! Donor breast milk from accredited milk banks that are medically supervised and supply milk by prescription is safe! Milk banks carefully screen breast milk donations and their donors. Donors need to share their medical and lifestyle histories and undergo blood tests for HIV, HTLV, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C to be approved.

Mothers who are selected are given very specific instructions on how to collect and send their milk to the banks. These include guidance on nipple and breast cleansing, pump sterilization, and milk storage.

How to donate breast milk

Human Milk Banking Association of North America have established the standards to become a milk donor. They ensure the safety of donor breast milk and are advised by the CDC, FDA, and blood and tissue industries. Most moms are eligible for milk donation, however, exclusions include:

  • a positive test result for HIV, HTLV, Hepatitis B or C, or Syphilis
  • drug and tobacco use
  • daily alcohol intake
  • the use of certain medications or herbal supplements.
  • if you have spent extensive time in France, Ireland, or the United Kingdom during certain time periods. Due to potential exposure to mad cow disease.
  • if you have received a blood transfusion in one of the countries listed above

Alternative options

Milk Banks focus primarily on finding milk for ill or fragile babies, they may only serve outpatients and healthy babies if sufficient milk is available. That’s why moms of older, healthier babies sometimes turn to informal milk donation via a milk sharing network instead.

There are several well-known milk-sharing networks such as Eats On Feets, Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB), and MilkShare. All of these have established protocols to help potential donors connect with those who are in need of milk.

While many mothers have had great experiences with these informal arrangements, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the FDA recommend only obtaining donor milk from accredited milk banks. It’s also always advised that premature babies and babies with medical issues receive donor breast milk from milk banks, which employ protocols to ensure the milk is safe.

If you are considering informal milk-sharing, please understand the practical guidance on collection, storage, and transportation of milk. This is to avoid any risk of contamination, and to protect yourself from any liability.

However you choose to feed your baby, we support you! If you are searching for more information on donating your breast milk to a bank, please contact the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, your local Milk Bank, La Leche League, or a healthcare provider.