The sharing of human milk has existed since the beginning of time. Mothers have either breastfed
children who were not biologically related to them or expressed and shared milk with a child other than their own. In early times if a baby did not receive human milk they died as there were no safe alternatives. In more modern times breastmilk substitutes have been developed for those times when a mother is unable or unwilling to breastfeed or provide enough of her breastmilk. So how can we safely give our babies human milk?
What are the risks associated with informal human milk sharing?
Human milk, when shared outside milk banks that follow accepted guidelines, does not provide the same safety guarantees and the possibility of serious adverse consequences cannot be ruled out.
The main risks of sharing milk are that it is contaminated with pathogenic bacteria as a result of suboptimal collection, storage and transportation or that it contains viruses as a result of the mother having unknown infections which may be transmitted via the milk.
These include viral infections such as:
(Human T Lymphotropic Virus). Harmful bacteria ingested in large quantities through breastmilk may lead to Viruses such as HIV and HTLV in breastmilk can cause serious illnesses, some of them manifesting severe infections including septicemia, several years after contamination. Screening of donors, milk testing and appropriate pasteurization, as routinely done in human milk banks, greatly reduces the risks associated with sharing breastmilk. In addition, the shared milk may contain medications taken by the mother as well as alcohol, nicotine, drugs and other contaminants.
Milk banks: Mother's Milk Bank of Colorado-Website
Breastmilk is especially critical for the healthy survival of very low birth weight, premature and sick infants. Mothers of these infants may be unable to provide sufficient human milk for their needs particularly in the early days following the baby’s birth. Milk banks affiliated with EMBA and HMBANA follow rigorous protocols to screen donors, test, process and dispense the donated milk and to provide safe donor human milk to these infants.
Story about how to donate: click here to watch a video link about donating milk
To be eligible as a milk donor, one must:
There are some exceptions to these guidelines. If you would like to discuss your eligibility,
Mother's Milk Bank at 303.869.1888 or toll-free at 877.458.5503.
Information shared by Human Milk Banking Association of North America-
and Mother's Milk Bank of Denver
Heather Knott, RN-IBCLC