Breast milk donation is one of the greatest and most powerful ways women can help other women. But there are many things people don’t know about it. We’ve got the lowdown on milk banks, who is able to donate breast milk, and how to start donating.
What is a milk bank?
A milk bank is a formal location where women can donate their breast milk to mothers and babies who need it most. There are currently 26 non-profit milk banks in the U.S. and Canada. These banks are monitored and run by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). Many of the recipients of donated milk are premature babies in the NICU whose mothers haven’t built up a sufficient supply yet. Additional recipients include newborns who have gastrointestinal problems and other illnesses, babies who have been adopted and babies whose mothers cannot breast milk feed.
Who can donate?
Anyone who is lactating can be a potential donor! Many donors are moms who have a natural surplus of their own breast milk. Women who have given their child up for adoption, women who have had a miscarriage or stillbirth and women who were surrogates for another family are all possible candidates for donation as well.
How can I start donating my milk?
Locate a milk bank near you to start donating. After you get in contact with the bank, you will have to go through a few preliminary tests and health screenings. If you might be a potential donor, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- You must be in good overall health
- You can’t be taking certain types of medication (contact your local milk bank for a list)
- You must be willing to have blood drawn
- You’re able to donate 100 oz. of milk or more to your local bank
If there isn’t a milk bank near you, most will offer overnight shipping to the closest bank at no charge to the donor. You just have to freeze your milk before it ships.
Are online milk sharing communities the same as milk banks?
Milk donation is a wonderful and generous act, but if you are a mom who needs breast milk for your own baby, we urge you to go through an official milk bank instead of receiving breast milk from a friend or through online communities. While casual milk sharing communities have the best intentions, breast milk has potential to carry certain bacteria and viruses (as well as drugs and/or alcohol), and the handling of donated milk is not officially regulated through these groups. In addition to requiring a formal screening process for all breast milk donations, milk banks also pasteurize all breast milk before it is passed onto babies who need it to ensure it is safe.
Overall, donating your breast milk not only benefits the baby receiving your donation, but it can also be beneficial for you!
What are your thoughts on breast milk donation? Would you donate your breast milk? Let us know in the comments!