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How to Donate Breast Milk

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 23, 2021

One problem that faces many breastfeeding mothers is making too much milk. If you produce more milk than your baby needs, you may be looking for ways to donate your excess milk instead of dumping it out. 

By donating your breast milk, you can help another family in need. Some moms need to supplement because they don’t produce enough milk for their babies, and some families who adopt children prefer to give breast milk instead of formula. 

Donating Breast Milk

By doing a quick search online, you can find a milk bank in your state or local area. Milk banks serve as a liaison between milk donors and families seeking milk for an infant. They typically complete an eligibility process for donors and test milk donations to ensure that they are safe.

You can also donate directly to other moms in your community. Talk to your friends or your doctor to find out whether there are moms in need of breast milk for their infants. The mother you’re donating to may have questions about medications you take and lifestyle choices like drinking and smoking. 

If you want to donate breast milk through a milk bank, there are eligibility requirements. You may be able to donate breast milk if you:

  • Are in good health overall
  • Have breast milk in excess of what your child needs (you should never take milk away from your own baby to donate)
  • Can freeze your breast milk within 24-48 hours of pumping 
  • Only use medications that are approved for donors
  • Meet other minimum donation requirements of your milk bank
  • Aren’t using any herbal supplements

You may be disqualified from donating breast milk if you:

  • Have or are being treated for HIV, HTLV (human T-cell leukemia virus), hepatitis B or C, or syphilis
  • Have a sexual partner who is at risk for HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B or C, or syphilis
  • Have used recreational drugs within the last year
  • Smoke or use other tobacco products 
  • Drink more than a specified amount of alcohol
  • Have traveled to certain countries recently 

Locate a milk bank. Do your research and choose a milk bank that is currently accepting donations. Read their guidelines to ensure that you are eligible and meet their minimum donation requirements.

Apply. Fill out the application to donate. Remember to be as detailed as possible in your responses. Tell the truth and don’t lie about medications or health conditions. Many milk banks request bloodwork and also test breast milk. If you give wrong information on your application, it can disqualify you from donating now and in the future.

Complete the steps. Requirements vary from milk bank to milk bank. You may have to complete bloodwork, submit medical records, and participate in phone or online interviews. Many milk banks also require that your pediatrician signs off on donating by confirming that you have a healthy breastfed infant.

Donate to other moms. The process can be tedious, but donating breast milk directly to other moms is very rewarding. As a breastfeeding mom, you know the benefits of breast milk. By donating, you can help another mom give her baby the best nutrition. 

Preparing to Donate Breast Milk

The following are some steps to take when preparing to donate breast milk.

Sterilize pump parts. You may be tempted to store your breast pump parts in the fridge between pumping, but don’t. Wash your pump parts in hot soapy water, taking them apart completely. Sterilize parts once per day and store them where they can’t be contaminated by people walking by.

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your clean pump parts until you wash your hands. Once you wash your hands, don’t touch anything else to avoid cross-contamination.

Transfer milk. If you pump into bottles, transfer it carefully into bags for freezing. Be careful not to touch the milk with your hands.

Label and store. Make sure you put the date and time of your pumping session on the bags. Include how many ounces are in each bag so you can count how much milk you have stored for donation. Make sure your freezer is set to the coldest setting to ensure that proper guidelines are followed for your milk.

Ask for help. If you have to take medication that isn’t approved by the milk bank, or if you are sick, mark the bags from your pumping session appropriately. Ask the milk bank if the milk is eligible for donation or if you should keep it for your own child.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Human Milk Banking Association of North America: “Find a Milk Bank,” “Our Work.”

Mothers Milk Bank Austin: “How to donate milk.”

Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast: "Donate Breast Milk."

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