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Donor Human Milk and Milk-Sharing

Donor Human 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  milk for their supply. Babies born premature have first priority for receiving donor milk. Human milk saves lives and makes a large difference in the health of premature and other at-risk infants. Parents have an option to donate milk after a loss.

Individuals who donate their extra  milk help save babies lives! Breastfeeding and chestfeeding parents  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

Human milk-sharing

Sharing human milk among breastfeeding/chestfeeding parents  is popular and can be helpful, but has risks. Safety of the milk depends upon the donor's health and lifestyle, as well as how the  milk is collected and shared. There are two main ways that human milk is shared: informally or online purchasing. 

Informal milk-sharing

  • Expressed human milk that is exchanged between willing individuals.
  • "Cross-nursing" which is lactating parents sharing breastfeeding/chestfeeding 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 human milk from a milk bank when available.

Online purchasing

Never buy human milk online. Most medical providers warn against it for health and safety reasons. Studies indicate that human milk purchased online may be contaminated, diluted, or unsafe from not storing milk at proper temperatures.2


1. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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