Site Logo

Hello, you are using an old browser that's unsafe and no longer supported. Please consider updating your browser to a newer version, or downloading a modern browser.

Donor human milk explained


Is donor human milk safe

Yes. MMBA is an accredited milk bank that follows strict donor screening, milk processing and dispensing standards established by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America ( to ensure the safety of donor human milk. These standards have been established with the advisement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the blood and tissue industries. Potential milk donors provide complete medical and lifestyle histories, and undergo blood tests for HIV, HTLV, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C, similar to the screening process used at blood banks. Donated milk is then tested for bacteria and nutritional composition, and pasteurized to kill any bacteria and viruses. Before dispensing, bacteriological testing is repeated to verify that all bacteria are destroyed.

Why can't mothers provide milk for their own babies?

Donor human milk is provided to babies whose mothers do not have their own milk to provide. This situation can happen for a variety of reasons, including: When a mother’s milk supply is delayed due to circumstances of birth or pregnancy, including premature delivery, When a mother’s milk supply does not become established enough to provide sufficient milk for her child or children (twins or triplets, for instance), When stress interferes with milk supply, such as when a hospitalized baby is too at-risk to be held or nursed by their mother, When a mother requires medication that may pass through her own milk and harm her baby, When a mother has a medical condition that makes breastfeeding unsafe, such as HIV.

Who receives donor milk?

Donor human milk is dispensed by prescription primarily to babies born premature or who are sick. Common reasons for prescribing donor human milk include: preterm birth, especially VLBW or ELBW infants, failure to thrive, malabsorption syndromes, short-gut syndrome, renal failure, inborn errors of metabolism Immunological deficiencies, Formula intolerance, Cardiac anomalies, Gastro intestinal anomalies, including gastroschisis Intrauterine exposure to drugs

How is donor milk processed?

Frozen donated milk is thawed, nutritionally analyzed, cultured for bacteria, pooled for nutrient standardization, and poured into bottles, then pasteurized at 62.5 C in a shaking water bath or automatic pasteurizer. Pasteurized milk is quick-cooled, then frozen at -20’C. Microbiological cultures are obtained by an independent laboratory from individual donors’ deposits prior to pasteurization and pooling, and from each batch of milk after pasteurization. This is done to verify that no heat-resistant pathogens are present before pasteurization, and that there is zero growth of bacteria after the heating process.

How do you know the nutritional components of donated milk?

Nutritional analysis is conducted at MMBA using a Foss Electric MilkoScan FT120, a full-spectrum infrared spectroscopy, calibrated by us in 2003 to read fat, lactose and protein content of the milk, allowing us to standardize nutrient components of human milk in a process developed in-house called Target Pooling. This standardization allows for strategic feeding of preterm infants, effective evaluation of babies’ growth and development, specific fortification of milk for individual babies, and selection of milk pools that meet individual babies’ needs.

Is milk banking cost effective?

Yes! Research shows that necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a primary cause of death and illness for preemies when human milk feedings are unavailable, will increase the medical costs for one baby between $128,000 and $238,000. In addition, reductions in other complications such as retinopathy of prematurity (problems with vision) through the use of donor human milk instead of formula means that the baby goes home sooner with fewer medical issues - and stays healthier long term.

Is there a professional organization for milk banks?

Yes. Mothers’ Milk Bank Austin is one of 30 milk banks who are accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). HMBANA is an accrediting organization formed in 1985 to promote, protect, and support donor milk banking. It is the only professional membership association for milk banks in Canada, and the United States, and sets the standards and guidelines for donor milk banking in those areas.

View More

Mothers Milk Bank Recipient Baby Belman and Paz

Milk Production

Chad Jacob, MMBA Lab Specialist, Talks Cultural Views on Breastfeeding and Career Changes

In this week’s NBM video, we chat with lab specialist Chad Jacob, who has been a proud part of the MMBA team for over a decade! Check out what...

Milk Production

MMBA’s Own Melissa Kuhn Talks Pumping, Helping Families, and Processing Liquid Gold

We are proud to present an interview with Melissa Kuhn, MMBA’s milk processing program manager. Both a mom and a Milk Bank employee, Melissa knows a thing or two...

Milk Production

COVID-19 Workplace Rights: Breastfeeding and Lactation by The USBC

1. I need to pump milk at work. Have my rights changed during the COVID-19 pandemic? Most nursing parents have a right to safely express breast milk at work...

Milk Production

Breastfeeding Resources

COVID-19 AND BREASTFEEDING RESOURCES Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and Breastfeeding Facts About COVID-19 San Antonio Breastfeeding Support via Telemedicine Milk Handling for COVID-19 Positive or Suspected Mothers in the Hospital...

Milk Production

Mothers Milk Bank Premature Baby

Have more questions?

Contact us Today!

Sign up for our Newsletter!