Learning About Donor Breast Milk

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What is donor breast milk?

Donor breast milk is produced by a person and given to a baby who is not their own. The breast milk may come from someone who is making more than their baby needs. The milk is pumped and sent to a donor breast milk bank. The bank collects, processes, and distributes it. It's given mostly to babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at hospitals. But you can get donor breast milk for home use too.

Why is it used?

Parents can use donor breast milk when their own milk is not available or there isn't enough for the baby's needs. Donated milk can also be used when infant formula is in short supply.

How is it used?

Your doctor can help you contact a trusted donor breast milk bank. The milk is normally frozen by the bank and shipped to your home. You'll get instructions about how long you can keep the milk in your freezer and how to thaw and use it.

Is it safe?

Breast milk that comes from donor breast milk banks is safe. These banks must follow rules made by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to safely collect, process, and store breast milk.

Banks also screen the people who donate the milk. They don't take milk from donors who are ill, are taking medicines or using drugs or alcohol, or have had certain infections. After collecting the milk, the bank then pasteurizes it to kill germs.

Some people find donor milk online or through friends. But this person-to-person sharing of breast milk is not recommended. That's because donors usually aren't screened, and the milk isn't pasteurized. And it may not be stored safely before it's shared.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.