Donating Breast Milk

Donor Breast Milk

The health benefits of breastfeeding your baby are numerous and well-documented. Breastfeeding supports your baby’s immune system and helps lower the risk of certain illnesses and diseases later in life, ranging from allergies and asthma to Type 2 diabetes and more.

For parents of sick or premature babies, however, breastfeeding can be difficult. While a mother’s own milk is always preferred, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, donor breast milk can offer premature or sick babies similar health benefits. In fact, both the World Health Organization and Mother’s Milk Bank, the only nonprofit breast milk donor bank in the state of California, state that donor milk is a baby’s second-best option when mothers are unable to breastfeed.

If you are temporarily unable to provide enough breast milk for your baby while they are in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit, using donor breast milk can help ensure that your child receives the abundance of nutrients breast milk provides, helping them grow stronger and healthier. (Donor breast milk is offered to babies under 32 week’s gestational age.) And if you’re a lactating mother looking to help your community, consider donating your extra breast milk to provide for our littlest patients. In some cases, mothers who have suffered the loss of their baby may elect to donate breast milk. Some mothers find it helpful to know they are benefitting other families, which can provide some healing for them as well.

Who Can Donate Breast Milk?

Generally speaking, if you’re able to donate blood, you’ll be able to donate breast milk, too.

Henry Mayo’s Milk Depot follows the national guidelines presented by the American Association of Blood Banks and the Human Milk Banking Association of America. These guidelines require donor mothers:

  • Be in general good health
  • Undergo a free blood test
  • Provide at least 200 ounces of breast milk within a 6-month period

Are Breast Milk Donor Banks Safe?

Yes! Mother’s Milk Bank is a licensed tissue bank and is regulated by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America and the California Department of Public Health. Mothers Milk Bank reports a zero rate of infant illness from donor breast milk during its 42 years of operation.

For this reason, our providers recommend only receiving breast milk donations from a breast milk donor bank. This ensures the quality and safety of breast milk; donations that haven’t been tested and pasteurized could contain illnesses, bacteria or other harmful substances.

Donated breast milk is screened, pasteurized and tested to ensure it’s safe for sick and premature infants. What’s more, donor breast milk, just like a mother’s milk, helps strengthen the baby’s immune system so they can better fight infections. And while pasteurizing donor breast milk reduces some of the nutritional and immunological properties of breast milk, it’s a small percentage, and it still contains the multitude of health benefits breast milk provides for babies.