What is a milk bank?

Similar to a blood bank in operation and protocols, a milk bank provides donated, pasteurized human milk to babies in fragile health.  When a mother is unable to provide enough milk for her own baby, donor milk can save a baby’s life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends banked donor milk as the safest alternative for premature babies when a mother’s own milk is not available.  

Is there a milk bank in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, all hospitals with level III NICUs use donor milk from Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, a nonprofit community milk bank operating under the guidelines of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).  Many hospitals with special care and mother-baby units use donor milk as well. Outpatients can order milk directly from the milk bank by prescription.  

Is donor milk safe?

In over 40 years of modern milk banking, there has never been a documented case of a baby being harmed by donor milk from an accredited nonprofit milk bank. Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast follows strict screening, processing, and dispensing guidelines established by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). These guidelines have been established in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, and the blood and tissue banking industries. Potential donors provide medical and lifestyle histories and undergo blood tests similar to the screening at blood banks. Donated milk is then pooled and pasteurized to kill bacteria or viruses. Before the pasteurized milk is dispensed, bacteriological testing is done to ensure safety.

How can I donate milk?

Milk donation is a simple process similar to screening for blood donation. It involves a brief phone screening, consents and medical history forms (including approval by mother’s and baby’s healthcare providers), and a free blood draw. There is no cost to the mother at any point. To get started, review the guidelines at milkbankne.org/donate, then call 617-527-6263 x3.  The milk bank can screen mothers in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Cape Verdean Creole.
For more information on donating or receiving milk, as well as resources for medical professionals, visit the milk bank’s website.

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