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Giving and Receiving Donor Breast Milk

While breastfeeding is encouraged as the optimal way to feed your newborn baby (or babies), it can feel like an overwhelming task. For families experiencing an earlier-than-anticipated birth, unexpected NICU stay, or temporary or long-term reduced milk supply, donor breast milk can fill a critical gap.

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The Twin Cities metro area, as well as greater Minnesota, is fortunate to have a number of donor breast milk options available to families. If you have an ample milk supply, these are opportunities for you to donate your extra milk, as well! Read on for a full list of options to give and receive.

Formal Milk Banks

Formal milk banks such as the Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies (Golden Valley), Olmstead Medical Center (Rochester), and St. Luke’s Hospital (Duluth) receive donor breast milk from screened donors. In most instances these donors are screened for HIV, HTVL (human T cell lymphotropic virus), syphilis, and Hepatitis B & C. This milk is also pasteurized. This process kills harmful pathogens but retains most of the milk’s nutritional properties. Formal human milk banks offer the safest option for parents needing donor milk for their little one(s). However, it is typically also the most expensive option.

Purchasing from a milk bank

To purchase donor breast milk from a formal milk bank, follow the links above to learn more. Note that some milk banks prioritize donations to hospitalized and/or medically fragile babies. In addition, milk banks may require a prescription from your provider or your baby’s provider. For parents in the Twin Cities, pickup sites are located at the Minnesota Milk Bank itself and other locations throughout the metro area. In Duluth and Rochester, you can pick the milk up directly from the milk bank locations.

Donating to a milk bank

Contact the milk bank closest to you to learn more about their unique requirements. Following the screening and approval process, you can drop off your donated milk.

Informal Milk Sharing

A number of informal milk sharing options are available for parents who choose not to purchase screened and pasteurized milk. Informal milk donors are not screened for communicable diseases or drug use. Be sure to ask potential donors about all drug, medication, and supplement use–as well as communicable diseases–at the time of milk expression. It is also important to ask about the age of the milk and the donor’s specific storage processes.

In addition, informal donor breast milk should always be entirely free. We know that when human milk is commodified, there is an increased risk for a multitude of scenarios. These include milk with higher levels of bacterial contamination, milk that has been watered down or with formula or other milks added in, or milk that is taken from a baby who instead receives formula but could have breast milk. It is, therefore, critically important that any milk that is given or received informally remains free. While it is true that if a mother is feeding her own baby/babies with the same milk, there is a good chance it is safe, it’s still best to do your due diligence and ask questions. When considering donor milk from an informal source, parents should weigh the risks and benefits and make the decision that is best for themselves and their baby/babies.

Informal milk sharing options in Minnesota

A few of the options for informal milk sharing include Eats on Feets MN, Minnesota Breastfeeding Mamas, and Human Milk 4 Human Babies. To share or request milk via these platforms, simply join these Facebook pages and post your request/offer.

Receiving informal donor milk

If you are hoping to receive donor breast milk, share your city of residence, your baby’s age, your current needs, and any particular requests in your post (e.g. milk from a donor with a particular age of baby, from a donor who does not consume specific foods, etc). Including a photo of your baby, if you are comfortable, can help with visibility of the post. Remember to be kind to donors! They have spent hours pumping milk, so if you accept their offer of milk, be sure to pick up promptly. Etiquette suggests you replace the milk storage bags used for the milk you are taking, at a minimum. A thank you card or even a small gift of appreciation is always a lovely, but not expected.

Giving informal donor milk

If hoping to donate breast milk, share your city of residence, the number of ounces available, how old the milk is, your consumption of any drugs and/or supplements at the time of pumping, and your health status in your post (or if you prefer, you can share this information via private message with potential recipients). It is not appropriate to request payment for your milk. However, it is appropriate to ask for replacement milk bags if you wish.

No matter how you feed your baby/babies, we know that feeding your baby or babies is a big task! We’re here for you, and so are the families from across the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, and beyond. You’ve got this! And if you benefited from milk donation, let us know in the comments below!

Want another resource to help you have your best postpartum time? Grab our free Postpartum Plan Workbook HERE and use it to prepare for your fourth trimester!

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