Donating breast milk

Donating milk – Transcript

If you are breastfeeding your baby I’m sure you’ll be aware of the immense benefits to your baby’s health, and you can imagine for very small premature babies and sick babies, this breast milk can be absolutely invaluable and of course it’s not always possible for a mother of a very premature baby, or a sick baby, to be able to provide that milk for them. It might be that the mother is ill themselves for instance.

 So I feel that it’s a really positive thing that there are donor milk banks where women who are breastfeeding and maybe have an oversupply or who just want to donate their milk by extra pumping, can provide milk for babies such as these.

frozen breast milk in storage bags in the basket So why is donor milk so important? We certainly know the breast milk is a living substance and it’s packed full of immunoglobulins. These are antibodies which really help to…it’s almost like an immunization for your baby, even from the first bit of milk that a baby receives. In special care units where consultants are really aware of the health advantages with breast milk for these tiny babies, they will encourage, first of all, the biological mother to give her milk – fresh milk.

 Next, the next in line would be the biological mother’s frozen milk. Then after that, donor milk. After that it would be formula.

There are studies that are showing that breast milk can help to protect premature babies from a condition called necrotizing enterocolitis. It almost seems as if the breast milk provides a teflon– coating, you could say, in the baby’s gut, protecting the baby from allergens and pathogens.

 All babies can digest and absorb breast milk far easier than formula, which is based on cow’s milk, but particularly very premature babies.

Even if a very young baby is not able to feed from the breast itself, very small amounts of breast milk can be given via little nasogastric tubes. So this breast milk is actually going to help to develop and strengthen the gut.

 So you may be wondering what happens about screening your milk? Now if you decide that you want to be a donor you will be asked a whole host of health-related questions, and a blood test would be required. Your milk will also be tested for any signs of infection as well.

 If your milk is okay it will then be put through a special pasteurization process called Holder Pasteurization and this means that any remaining viruses or bacteria will be destroyed. The great thing is that you could imagine that antibodies and things like that would also be destroyed, but we know that about 60 percent are still active, even after that process.

 Just to let you know, milk banks are not able to accept milk from mothers who smoke or who take illegal drugs, and also if you’ve had a blood transfusion in the past.

 It’s also important that you’re aware that different milk banks can have different policies relating to how they collect the milk. Now some will actually come and pick up the milk from your own house by couriers. Others would require you to go to the milk bank so it really depends in your area where your nearest milk bank is, and look at the policies around that, because you will need to know whether that’s going to be practical or not for you.

It’s true to say that the amount of milk that women donate can certainly vary from person to person, and some milk banks will take a regular small amount from somebody every week for instance, but usually, they are happy to take a one-off larger donation as well. Baby bottle with milk and a measuring scale, manual breast pump, mothers breast milk is the most healthy food for newborn baby. Objects standing in a row.

 But please remember that every drop of milk is valuable for these babies and if you are interested in donating your milk contact your local milk bank and have a good chat to them about this.

 There are some stipulations in regard to donating your milk and one of them is that your baby needs to be under six months old when you start donating and most breastfeeding women will have established their milk supply before they donate, although every now and again somebody with an oversupply may donate a large amount, for instance, as a one-off.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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