Giving Liquid Gold: Breast Milk Donation Options

Are you a milk-making machine? You can give away some of that good stuff and put another mama’s mind at ease.

Illustration by Anke Weckmann

Human milk is the ultimate source of nutrition for babies. Yet there are circumstances when a mother cannot breastfeed, perhaps because of latching problems, breast surgery, or medications she is taking, but she still wants her baby to have breast milk. A breast milk donation can give a new mom much-needed peace of mind.

Some babies with special feeding needs may require donated breast milk. Some infants cannot tolerate formula. Plus, hospitals need breast milk to feed critically ill babies or children, especially preterm infants. Research shows that breast milk contains a complex matrix of proteins, vitamins, and minerals, all of which help to protect babies from infection and disease. Milk banks collect donated breast milk, test and pasteurize it for safety, and distribute it to area hospitals, where it is prescribed for children who need it.

 Do you want to donate? Generally, you should be in good health and free of cancer or a disease like syphilis, hepatitis, or HIV. You should avoid alcohol, recreational drugs, and medications contraindicated for breastfeeding. There are three options for donating breast milk, and some offer compensation.

Public milk bank: In our area, this would be the OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank (MMB) in Columbus. After a health screening and a blood test (paid for by MMB), MMB will mail you collection materials. You may then drop off stored milk at a collection site, like Cincinnati Children’s or Dayton Children’s Hospitals. Once received by MMB, breast milk is processed and distributed to local hospitals.

Milk-sharing network: This provides women a more informal opportunity to share breast milk, connecting donors with recipients. You are expected to pasteurize your milk. Check out Human Milk 4 Human Babies (Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky) on Facebook, EatsOnFeets.org, and OnlyTheBreast.com.

Private company: Tiny Treasures Milk Bank will compensate you for your breast milk and donate it to Prolacta, a biomedical firm which tests and processes breast milk and formulates it into nutritional products, which are distributed to intensive-care nurseries around the country.

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