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Donor Breast Milk

Information for parents on the Neonatal Unit

This information is based on ‘Guidelines for the establishment and operation of human milk banks in the UK’ UKAMB (United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking)

What is the best milk for my baby?

Your own breast milk is the best milk for your baby.

What is donor breast milk?

Donor milk is breast milk expressed and donated by a mother that is then processed by a donor milk bank to be given to your baby. It is the next best milk to your own.

Why donor milk?

For babies who can receive donor milk, it is a precious resource so its use is on babies who will benefit most. These include:

  • Very premature babies (born at 28 weeks or less)
  • Babies weighing less than 1500 grams at birth.
  • Babies who have had surgery on their intestines

Breast milk is more easily digested than formula milk and it helps protect your baby from infection. There is evidence that breast milk reduces the risk of Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) which is a condition that can affect the bowel of preterm infants and which can make babies very unwell.

When a mother is unable to provide any or enough of her own breast milk, donor breast milk is often the preferred alternative to formula milk. This is because donor breast milk still contains many of the protective factors (such as immunoglobulins) which help protect premature babies from infection. Protective factors are not present in formula milk which is prepared from cow’s milk.

Is donor milk safe?

Donor mothers must meet strict health and lifestyle criteria and are required to have blood screening tests. Donor mothers have been shown how to express, collect and store their milk cleanly and safely. In addition, donated milk is tested for bacteria and pasteurised (heat treated) for added protection.

What screening takes place?

Donor mothers are screened for:

  • Lifestyle (see further down)
  • Previous Medical History – previous blood transfusion, chronic or acute medical conditions requiring medication, family history of TB, family history of CJD (however there is no evidence that CJD is transmitted through breast milk)
  • Infections/ Blood born infections – HIV 1 and 2 (viruses causing AIDS), hepatitis B and C,
  • HTLV I and II (Human T-lymphotropic virus), Syphilis.

Mothers are excluded from donating milk if they do not meet the criteria set by NICE guidelines:

What is Lifestyle Screening?

A donor mother does not:

  • Smoke
  • Drink more than small amounts of alcohol
  • Drink excessive number of drinks containing caffeine per day (coffee, tea or cola)
  • Receive certain medications (traditional or herbal)
  • Take drugs

Useful Contact Numbers

Stoke Mandeville Hospital Neonatal Unit 01296 316147

UKAMB (UK Association of Milk Banks)

Oxford Milk Bank 01865 225507