Banking your milk for other babies
We’ve all heard that “breast is best” for babies, but not every woman can breastfeed. Some moms have had surgery or take medications that transfer to breast milk and are unsafe for the baby, or just don’t produce enough milk to sustain a baby. Some babies have severe allergies or a failure to thrive. Whatever the problem, moms might still be able to provide breast milk – just someone else’s.
Generations ago, women might bring in a wet nurse to help feed the baby. Not so much today. A donor milk bank is a service established for the purpose of collecting, screening, processing and distributing donated human milk to meet the specific medical needs of individuals for whom it is prescribed.
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America says donor milk banks receive milk from lactating mothers who have been carefully screened for health behaviors and communicable diseases, similarly to the way blood banks screen donors. Milk is transported to the milk bank frozen. It is heat-treated to kill any bacteria or viruses, processed and then refrozen. It is only dispensed after a sample is cultured and shows no bacteria growth. Milk is shipped frozen by overnight express to hospitals and to individual recipients at home.
The milk is dispensed by physician prescription or by hospital purchase order only. There is a processing fee charged to cover the expense of collecting, pasteurizing and dispensing the milk.
The mission of the National Milk Bank is to provide premature and critically-ill babies with the best possible nutrition for survival and healthy development. If you are interested in donating or wish to learn more, click on the links above.