Breastfeeding exclusively provides many important health benefits to both mom and baby. Breast milk is widely recommended by healthcare professionals as the “gold standard” for nutrition because it provides the best possible food for your baby’s growth and development, and it protects against infection and disease. In some special circumstances if your milk is not available, human donor milk may be recommended.
Donor breast milk is not new! Early in the 20th century, collecting and storing breast milk (called “milk banking”) grew with increased use of donor milk for ill and premature infants. In 1985, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) was established, and the interest in donor milk banks continues to grow. Many families are requesting donor milk rather than using formula, particularly when they have an ill or premature infant. Donor milk provides a temporary solution until the mother can produce enough milk for her baby.
Donor milk is safe! Donors go through a comprehensive health screening and lab testing process. Milk banks have stringent protocols to pasteurize and inactivate any potential viral or bacterial agents in the human milk they receive. Common reasons for the use of donor milk are:
- Sick or premature infants.
- A mother’s temporary inability to provide her own milk for her infant.
- Adoption situations.
An increasing number of mothers are sharing donor milk via social media. This practice concerns health care professionals because unregulated sharing increases the risk of spreading infection and viruses. We recommend against casual milk sharing and advise using only donor milk that has been pasteurized from a certified milk bank. The use of donor milk offers the best nutrition, but we have to make sure it is provided safely.