There has been a lot of debate on the use of donated breast milk as a readily available recourse for preemies and for other sick babies in or out of the hospital. Made up of just the right amount of vitamins, protein and fat, it provides babies with complete nutrition, unparalleled by any other commercially available formula. And aside from being easily digestible, it can also protect babies from various infections. But not all mothers have a sufficient amount of breast milk and in certain circumstances, some babies will only thrive if they are fed with human milk.

The safest way in acquiring breast milk is through a milk bank but some moms have resorted to joining milk sharing groups and they have even used a popular social media tool such as Facebook to get in touch with other mothers, who are more than willing to share spare milk. But many health organizations have discouraged this practice because unscreened breast milk has the potential to pass on infectious diseases from the donor to the baby.

Is it safe?

There is a strict screening process before women can donate milk to milk banks. They must first provide a thorough health history and they need to undergo tests to ensure that they will not be passing on diseases by donating milk. They will also be given strict instructions on how to pump and store milk in prescribed containers to prevent contamination. When the donated milk reaches a milk bank, it will go through pasteurization in order to eliminate bacteria but in the process still retain the beneficial properties of breast milk. During this phase, samples are collected to ensure that harmful bacteria are not present. So with strict screening and treatment processes, donated milk from milk banks are guaranteed safe.

Can all women donate spare milk?

Not all women are qualified to become milk donors. Women who test positive for HIV, HTLV, Hepatitis B or C and Syphilis are not eligible donors. Women who smoke, take illegal drugs, and drink more than 2 ounces of alcohol each day are also not allowed to donate. Likewise, women taking certain medications are also disqualified from donating spare milk. And aside from being in good health, milk banks also make sure that prospective donors can produce the minimum amount of milk on a regular basis.

Who relies heavily on milk banks?

You need a prescription from your doctor in order to receive donor milk. Milk banks have been instrumental in sustaining babies with special needs particularly infants with failure to thrive, milk intolerance, milk allergies, and other related conditions. For these babies, their survival largely depends on the availability of nature’s optimal nutrition source.

If you are open to the idea of donating breast milk, get in touch with a milk bank nearest you. These centers are non-profit organizations that will pay for the initial screening as well as the shipping costs of donors.  By simply getting involved and at no cost whatsoever, you can already save lives.