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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a donor milk bank? (Source: HMBANA)

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. All member banks operate under the guidelines of HMBANA.(Human milk bank association of North America)

How does a donor milk bank operate? (Source: HMBANA)

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. Additionally, milk bank donors must:

  • be non-smokers
  • not regularly consume any medication (including mega-vitamins)
  • not consume excluded medications or alcohol within the specified exclusion period

Milk is transported to the milk bank frozen. The milk from several donors is pooled after thawing, and then heat-treated to kill any bacteria or viruses. The milk is processed and then refrozen. It is only dispensed after a sample is cultured and shows no bacterial growth.

Why use donor milk? (Source: HMBANA)

In the absence of the infant's own mother's milk, donor milk offers many of the benefits of human milk for the infant, including:

  • optimal nutrition
  • easy digestibility
  • immunologic protection against many organisms and diseases

Human milk also contains growth factors that can:

  • protect immature tissue
  • promote maturation, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract
  • promote healing of tissue damaged by infection.

Common reasons for using donor milk include:

  • Prematurity
  • Allergies
  • Feeding/formula intolerance
  • Immunologic deficiencies
  • Post-operative nutrition
  • Infectious diseases
  • Inborn errors of metabolism

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