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Breast Milk Donating and Sharing

Donor breast milk

The Northwest Mothers Milk Bank is the only non-profit human milk bank in the Pacific Northwest. Their mission is to collect, pasteurize and distribute donor human milk to babies who need it.

The Milk Bank depends entirely on donated breast milk for their supply. Babies born premature have first priority for receiving donor milk. Human milk saves lives and makes a major difference in the health of premature and other at-risk infants.

Women who donate their extra breast milk help save babies lives! Breastfeeding mothers who are interested in becoming milk donors follow 3 steps to be approved:

  1. Health screening phone interview
  2. Complete several forms (health and lifestyle questions, consent forms, medical releases)
  3. Free blood test

Further details are available at http://www.donatemilk.org


Breast milk-sharing

Sharing breast milk among breastfeeding mothers is popular and can be both helpful and risky. Safety of the milk depends upon the donor’s health and lifestyle, as well as how the breast milk is collected and shared. There are two main ways that breast milk is shared: informally or online purchasing.

Informal milk-sharing

  • Expressed breast milk that is exchanged between willing individuals.
  • "Cross-nursing" which is mothers sharing breastfeeding duties among two or more infants.

There are possible safety risks with informal milk-sharing, including exposing the baby to infectious diseases (including HIV), or chemical contaminants, such as illegal or prescription drugs. Like any type of milk, if human milk is not handled and stored properly, it could become contaminated and unsafe to drink.1 For the safest milk donations, get breast milk from a milk bank, if available.

Online purchasing

Never buy breast milk online. Most medical providers warn against it for health and safety reasons. Recent studies indicate that breast milk purchased online may be contaminated, diluted or not stored at proper temperatures.2


References

1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

2. Keim, S. et al. Pediatrics. 2015 May;135(5):e1157-62. doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-3554

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