Should I pasteurize donor breast milk?
To pasteruize or not to pasteruize…
Donor breast milk is becoming more common these days with many outlets from which to get it. Yet, there are still moms who don’t know if they should pasteurize breast milk they receive or not. I actually read that a lot of moms with healthy babies never pasteurize breast milk that are aware of the warnings to do so. I have donated easily around 23,000 ounces of breast milk in a few years time after surrogacies and I am unaware of any of the many moms pasteurizing the breast milk I sent to them.
So why aren’t they and should you?
I am going to start by explaining what pasteurizing breast milk is and why it is recommended when receiving donor breast milk.
“Pasteurization or pasteurisation is a process in which packaged and non-packaged foods (such as milk and fruit juice) are treated with mild heat (<100 °C) to eliminate pathogens and extend shelf-life. The process is intended to reduce spoilage organisms and eliminate vegetative bacteria but not bacterial spores.” Source: wikipedia
Also it’s used to stop the enzymes in breast milk from growing to prevent Lipase from forming. Moms have to pasteurize ASAP and before freezing or refrigerating for this to work properly. That however, is another topic all together.
There have been studies that show possible bacteria contamination in breast milk. There are also concerns of infectious diseases that come from (unscreened) donors. The reason pasteurization is recommended is to remove possible infectious contaminants and bad bacterias that might be in the breast milk.
When a person donates breast milk we hope they handled the breast milk carefully and that it didn’t get contaminated in the process. There is no simple way to know if there are any bacterias in the breast milk that could harm your baby. Pasteurizing breast milk helps to reduce risk of harm to babies, especially babies with low immunities.
Learn how to home pasteurize breast milk by going to this link here.
Knowing all that we’d think that all parents would pasteurize breast milk they receive from strangers. The truth is it seems the majority of parents do not bother. Why?
Breast milk has many nutritional components that risk being broken down during the pasteurization process. We all have heard how raw milk is healthier than pasteurize milk. See pasteurizing breast milk not only kills bad bacteria it also kills good ones too amongst other necessary components.
With that known and because breast milk is really good at fighting back bad bacteria parents opt out of doing so. It’s actually shocking how well breast milk can fare with being fully thawed, refrozen, thawed again. Then left in room temperature and still show it’s really robust and does not grow bacteria easily.
While we know there has been studies that have shown bacteria to show up in donor milk it’s important to note that some of those bacterias are completely normal and typical in breast milk. The studies were also limited on how well they themselves handled the breast milk after receiving it. They also did not properly screen the donors from which they purchased breast milk. Plus, there has not been one case reported in these studies where a baby was harmed from unpasteurized donated breast milk.
I believe that is because parents usually always screen their donors before they accept the milk. They get milk in many cases where these donors feed their own children from their stash of breast milk too. Many other donors are surrogates who have proven themselves to be very healthy and capable of handling the care of other’s babies. Most all donors take great care to provide clean and safe breast milk. When parents take the time to get to know and screen the donors they become comfortable. They decide not to pasteurize the breast milk especially because is not an easy task. These parents also don’t want to risk ruining or over pasteurizing the milk either.
That brings me to the big question… Should you pasteurize donor breast milk?
The answer is, Yes. Most definitely I would advise all parents to pasteurize donated breast milk. Thaw a weeks of breast milk at at time, pasteurize, then refreeze it for weekly use. Do more if you can and have it all out of the way. Pasteurized breast milk can be refrozen since it now is free from any bad bacteria.
Probably didn’t expect me to say that after where I seemed to be headed. Truth is I would never advise anyone to take risks with their babies when receiving consumable goods. Think if a stranger was eating food you saw them purchase and they offered you some out of the bag, would you take it or wonder how clean their hands were? I think the same goes with donor milk. People are simply assuming all measures were taken when it was pumped and handled for storage. While donor breast milk has so far proven to have had very positive results in the breast milk donation community… it’s still a good idea to practice safety and pasteurize donor breast milk.
Do you pasteurize donor breast milk you receive?