Donor Human Milk 2015-08-14T17:46:53-07:00


WHO/UNICEF Joint Statement: 

“Where it is not possible for the biologic mother to breastfeed, the first alternative, if available, should be the use of human milk from other sources.  Human milk banks should be made available in appropriate situations.”

Although mothers’ own milk is clearly best, human milk banking has a long tradition in many countries and a recognized role in the care of preterm and ill infants.  The American Academy of Pediatrics established its first formal guidelines for human milk banks in 1943.  Initially milk was dispensed unprocessed from approximately 50 U.S. milk banks, but with the threat of HIV, the return of tuberculosis, and drug abuse, by 2000, all but 5 of the milk banks had closed.  Those that remained formed the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) in 1985 and adopted strict procedures for donor screening, milk processing (pasteurization), milk storage and shipping.

With the explosion of research on the possible medical uses of human milk components and the recognition of the benefits of human milk for preterm infants, more attention has been focused on donor human milk and the number of U.S. non-profit milk banks has increased to 15, with 1 for-profit milk bank as of the end of 2010.


  • Human milk empties from the stomach faster than formulas, so feedings can be advanced more easily
  • Infants fed human milk reach full feedings faster and need less IVs
  • Human milk reduces intestinal permeability faster (the intestine matures faster)
  • Preterm infants fed human milk tend to spend fewer days in the hospital
  • Human milk fed infants have less necrotizing enterocolitis (intestinal infection) and sepsi (blood infection)
  • Human milk fed infants tend to have less retinopathy of prematurity (premie eye disease)
  • Human milk tends to increase IQ


Although most processed human milk is used for preterm infants, other recipients with special health needs who benefit have included infants, children and adults with:

  • Allergies or sensitivities to formulas
  • Failure to thrive (FTT)
  • Immune deficiencies
  • Malabsorption syndromes
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Post-surgical nutrition
  • Short gut syndrome
  • Solid organ transplants (including adults)
  • Cancer chemotherapy patients


Collecting and donating milk is more than an act of generosity.  It is sharing something only a mother can give.  All donors are healthy nursing moms who meet strict standards including:

  • Excellent health
  • Taking approved medication only
  • Having milk in excess of her own baby’s needs
  • No detection of HIV-1 ans 2, Hepatitis B and C and HTLV-1 and 2 through blood tests
  • Negative TB skin test

A prospective donor will be screened over the phone, fill out a detailed health questionnaire, and get blood tests, usually at the nearest blood bank.  Once approved and given a donor number, frozen milk will be shipped to the milk bank or dropped off at the nearest collection depot.  There is usually no expense to the donor.

To find the milk bank nearest you, go to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America at:

In California, contact:

Mothers’ Milk Bank  (
751 South Bascom Ave
San Jose, CA 95128 Phone (408) 998-4550
FAX (408) 297-9208

The Mothers’ Milk Bank in San Jose, CA has several associated collect depots where mothers can drop off milk after they receive a donor number, including Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns in San Diego.


Pasteurized human milk is available through Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Infants in San Diego and directly through the Mothers’ Milk Bank-San Jose to all infants in need with a doctor’s prescription.  The prescription must include:

  • The medical necessity, or reason, for the milk
  • The approximate amount of milk needed
  • The approximate length of time the milk will be needed

If supplies are adequate, milk may also be available to older infants, children and adults with special needs.  Again, a doctor’s prescription is needed.  Although all pasteurized human milk is donated, processing, testing, storing and shipping do cost money.  The processing fee charged to recipients may be covered by insurance.  In California, outpatient donor milk is may be covered by MediCal.

To order pasteurized donor human milk contact the Mothers’ Milk Bank San Jose (in California), or your nearest milk bank (elsewhere in North America).