Get & Give Donor Milk
WHAT IS A MILK BANK AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT
Milk banks are medically supervised organizations that supply milk by prescription to babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICU). If surplus donor milk is available, it may also be distributed to outpatient babies and adults.
Human milk given to a baby in the NICU can have a huge impact on the baby’s health and survival. Human milk, even from a donor, is proven to have a positive outcome in combating many of the illnesses and issues commonly seen in the NICU. Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) is a life-threatening problem in which a baby’s intestines necrose, or die. Low-birth weight premature babies who receive human milk don’t get NEC as often as those who are given formula. Both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that if a baby cannot receive their mother’s milk, donated human milk is the next best option.
If your baby is not in the NICU but you are unable to breastfeed or provide your own pumped milk, you may also want to consider donor milk. A human milk bank can give you fresh donor milk if you have a prescription from your doctor.
Some reasons you may want or need a human milk bank include:
- You are unable to breastfeed because:
- You take certain medicines that are dangerous for babies and can be passed to your baby in your milk.
- You have an infectious disease (such as untreated tuberculosis)
- You get radiation therapy, though some therapies may mean only a brief pause in breastfeeding
- Your baby isn’t doing well on formula because of allergies or intolerance
DONATING MILK AFTER INFANT LOSS
Lactating parents grieving the death of a child may consider milk donation as well. Bereaved parents within our community have found donating their milk to be a meaningful way to honor their baby’s legacy while supporting other families in need. Milk donation, however, is a personal decision. Some parents may prefer to seek support in discontinuing milk production.
HOW TO BECOME A DONOR
You can find a human milk bank through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). Below is information and links about the two milk banks we have here in California.
Mothers’ Milk Bank
Though the home base for Mothers’ Milk Bank is San Jose, there are collection centers all over California and even in Nevada. There are no fees for donors. All medical tests and shipping costs are covered. The bank will also provide free milk storage bags to approved donors.
If you live in Southern California, you can donate to the Mothers’ Milk Bank through a number of Milk Depots, which are listed on the BreastfeedLA website.
To reach the Mother’s Milk Bank directly, call 1-877-375-6645 (option 4 for Spanish) or email email@example.com.
University of California Health Milk Bank
The University of California Health Milk Bank has a unique partnership with the San Diego Blood Bank that allows lactating individuals to deliver donated milk at any blood bank in the area.
Donors apply through the UC Health Milk Bank portal, which provides step-by-step instruction through the application process. Donors are assigned a milk bank coordinator and are also invited to participate in online communities with other donors.
To reach the UC Health Milk Bank directly, call 1-858-249-MILK (6455) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out whether your insurance company will cover the cost of donated milk for your baby, ask your doctor or call your insurance company directly. If your insurance company does not cover the cost of the milk, talk with the milk bank for pricing information and payment options.