Helpful guide to donating breast milk
Have a stash of unneeded breast milk taking up freezer space? Are you’re thinking about rehoming it to a baby in need? We can help with that. Did you know that there are thousands of babies every year that over come health and medical issues from donated breast milk? It’s true. There are many different reasons for needing breast milk for little ones such as:
- failure to thrive struggles
- digestive struggles
- premie babies
- formula intolerance
- babies recovering from surgeries
- moms unable to breast feed for many different reasons including their own medical struggles
- and so on
Donated breast milk helps these types of families every year.
You can help too.
How to get started:
It is important to understand the health and safety guidelines behind donating breast milk. We should put every effort in making sure you always use proper sanitary measurements when pumping and storing breast milk. You should always wash hands properly and also properly sanitize pump equipment. Only use pumps used by yourself unless it is an actual hospital grade pump designed for multiple users.
Make sure to only use certified breast milk storage bags and then label each one. Breast milk bags are best placed in freezer laying the bags down flat to freeze. This allows for easy storage, transporting and shipping of breast milk plus reduces risks of bags leaking or breaking. Put frozen breast milk bags in ziplock bags that are labeled to make organization, counting, and taking bags from freezer to a new location much easier.
Now you should decide how you want to donate your breast milk. There are 2 methods to donate: formal and informal milk sharing. You can donate through milk banks for free or for compensation, or you can donation through informal milk sharing methods.
Formal milk sharing through Milk banks help to provide breast milk to medically needy babies such as premie babies. Most milk banks only cover costs of blood tests, shipping, and shipping supplies. Those are the nonprofit milk banks. Whereas there are for profit milk banks that will pay $1.00 an ounce plus donor service costs. Approval requires a strict screening process to be a donor. Once approved you can send shipments that they will screen and decide if your milk will be accepted or not. In some cases the milk doesn’t pass screening. It’s very important to make sure you are always following their health and safety donor guidelines. But, that should be with out saying.
Milk banks get their milk from the same way informal milk sharing is received – from lactating mothers. Then they screen the women, next when they receive the milk they thaw it and test it. Once approved they pasteurize the milk, freeze it again for later thawing and serving of clean breast milk.
Informal milk sharing can be done online or in your community with friends and family. There are sites where you can only donate freely such as Eats on Feets, and Human Milk for Human Babies. There are also sites such as Happy Bellies, Happy Babies where families can buy, sell, and freely donate breast milk.
Milk banks are a wonderful, life saving option for those looking to donate breast milk. So why do some moms use informal milk sharing instead? There are many reasons such as Milk Banks charge around $4.00 an ounce for breast milk and many will only provide it to those with a prescription. $4.00 an ounce is a lot of money, especially if insurance will not cover most of it. For those without a prescription they can request breast milk from some milk banks but again at a whopping approx $4.00 an ounce. These families turn to moms who can provide the breast milk for much more affordable prices. They can then screen the moms and pasteurize the breast milk themselves.
I want to point out that I said “screen the moms and pasteurize the breast milk”. This is important especially if a baby gets sick even with just a cold. Lower immune systems are very susceptible to bacterias that may get in the breast milk from pumping, storing or shipping the breast milk. Donors usually never pasteurize their breast milk as it’s best and safest to allow the recipients to do so. The reason is to assure the breast milk doesn’t get contaminated in the process or after the fact.
Now while studies have shown bacteria to show up in donor milk there are so many factors including the fact that some of those bacterias are completely normal and typical in breast milk. Our own babies are going to be exposed to these bacterias from simple pumping and bottle feeding methods at home. These are the same breast milk bags many of us feed our own children or those we surrogated. None of these studies have shown even one case of informal milk sharing that lead to a baby being harmed from it’s consumption. We all know if there was such a known case, it would have been mentioned in those studies.
Does that mean there is no risk and all babies can consume informal milk shared breast milk. No, there is always a risk..
Several of those studies had shown that in some instances, internet purchases of breast milk had liquids like milk and water added to increase the volume. There are some ways to tell if this has happened to the breast milk such as having a doctor test the milk if there is suspicion and sometimes simply looking at the milk to see how it separates. However, these are rare cases and again why I recommend donors being screen with lab tests and letters of recommendation from doctors or surrogacy agency.
All donors should get tested for infectious diseases even if you have only had one partner and were tested before during that relationship. Keep a record of your labs and include a letter of health to be a donor of breast milk from your doctor to show potential recipients . Always follow safety guidelines with the breast milk. Don’t do drugs or smoke, make sure to pump and dump all breast milk when consuming alcohol and have full disclosure if you do drink. Wash hands, be sanitary at all times, keep your pump station & pump equipment in clean safe ideal locations.
As mentioned… babies who are premie or are sick with an immune disorder should not be given breast milk through informal milk sharing.
Now do you want to donate freely, for compensation, or both?
That is entirely up to you. Keep in mind some moms who donate altruistically will many times as for replacement breast milk bags and if transporting long distance or shipping is required then they ask for reimbursement on that. It’s important to get paid money up front before delivering.
Those who ask for compensation ask for anywhere between $0.25 an ounce up to $3.00 an ounce. The most common amount is $1.00 an ounce; those who seek more are usually on special diets that require them to spend more money on food and health products plus limit their lifestyle including convenience of affordable foods.
Sometimes it’s also easier to charge more per ounce (even in a flat rate) and then offer free shipping and shipping supplies. That way the recipient is aware up front what they will pay. That makes the transaction much easier for everyone.
Great, now you’re ready to donate!
If you wish to use a milk bank just contact one directly though their website or whatever method they have for their application process. You can look through our list here to find a milk bank near you.
If you wish to donate online altruistically check out some of the groups that you can post ads on or find families in search of breast milk such as Eats on Feets, and Human Milk for Human Babies. Please note some of these groups will not allow for any breast milk providing reimbursement which includes replacement bags or supplies, only shipping costs.
If you wish to donate online for compensation or for free with the freedom of choosing if you’d like some type of pumping supply reimbursements (or not) but it’s solely your discretion and that includes donating to adults who need it for medical or health reasons then check out our site and go to this link to learn how to start get started in your breast milk donation journey!