A milk bank is a facility which processes human donor milk for distribution to infants who need breast milk. The donated milk comes from breastfeeding mothers who have extra milk that their child does not need. The frozen milk can be donated to the milk bank where donated milk is pasteurized, tested for bacteria, frozen and then stored until it is shipped to health care facilities.
When your milk is dropped off at a Depot (a milk collection site) it is transported to the Milk Bank for testing and pasteurization. If a Depot isn’t in your area other arrangements are made such as shipping by FedEx or by Angel Flight Central. After passing testing it is pooled with other donors, pasteurized, and tested. After final approval it is distributed to hospitals serving premature and medically fragile infants in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. The main recipients of donated milk are babies who are the most fragile, vulnerable, and at-risk staying in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) and Special Care Nurseries (SCNs). Donor milk is also used in hospital well-baby units as a bridge until a mother’s own milk becomes available or as prescribed by a provider. If milk is available after hospital needs are met, we also dispense to infants at home.
Donor human milk provides an optimal source of nutrition that is easier to digest when compared to formula. Use of this milk is crucial in the care of preterm and sick infants. Research shows that preterm babies fed human donor milk have fewer infections, less severe complications, and shorter hospitalizations thus reuniting families sooner.
Before milk is accepted, every donating mother is carefully screened by a phone interview, written application and blood tests.
A milk depot is a place where approved donors can bring the extra milk they want to donate. There are many milk depots throughout the area so that mothers have easier access to these locations. The milk is then collected from the milk depots and brought to the milk bank for processing and distribution. Each human milk depot is affiliated with an established milk bank.
For the initial donation, we request that the donation be at least 150 oz. After the first donation, we welcome ongoing donations of any amount and as frequently as you’d like. Some donors prefer frequent drop-offs due to limited freezer capacity or the ease of transporting smaller amounts. Other donors prefer to do larger donations or wait until their babies are weaned. Every family is unique and we will work with you to make your donation as easy as possible.
Yes! Our donors live in every corner of Minnesota and even neighboring states. After completing the screening process, we will coordinate the transport of your milk by prepaid FedEx shipping boxes or by volunteers who will pick-up the milk from your home. Another option is by air. Volunteer pilots who fly for Angel Flight Central, can meet you at a municipal airport to transport your milk to the Twin Cities.
We can process milk that has been frozen for up to 6 months at the time of drop-off. Milk is acceptable for use when kept in a deep freezer for up to 12 months. The Milk Bank incorporates time to allow for the transportation, processing, and variable storage times at small and large hospitals in the region.
All Human Milk Banking Association of North America accredited Milk Banks have the same standards for when milk can be used and when it needs to be excluded. Certain medications, supplements, or illnesses can lead to temporary or permanent exclusions of milk that can’t be given to NICU babies. If some or all your milk falls into an exclusion period or is ineligible for donation, you can explore using your precious milk in unique ways rather than discarding it. Some examples include making baby food, milk baths, soaps or lotions, or applying it as a plant fertilizer.
Yes. You will need to complete the entire screening process with each child, including the bloodwork step. As a repeat donor, you will already be familiar with the guidelines and application which will expedite the process. After approval, you will be assigned a new donor ID.
We are happy to accept any milk that is pumped in the first year postpartum (before baby’s first birthday). Human milk composition changes over time to meet your baby’s needs. We mainly serve premature infants whose nutritional needs are more closely met with milk collected in the first 12 months.
It depends on the content and dosage of the supplement. The herbal product industry is unregulated and very little research is available that evaluates whether certain herbs are safe for donors to take. To determine if the supplement you are taking will impact donation, please speak with a Donor Coordinator.
Yes, if it has NOT been heat-treated in any way (i.e., boiling, scalding, warming, or thawing). The lipase enzyme is inactivated during the pasteurization process and does not pose any harm to babies.
The short answer is no, unless you are following a strict, vegan diet and NOT supplementing with a B-12 vitamin. We recognize that donors will have a variety of diets and the composition of their milk can reflect that. To keep the calories and nutrients consistent for our donor milk recipients, we pool milk from 3-5 unique donors to minimize this variability.
No, we do not offer financial reimbursement to donors for their breastmilk. We cover the costs of donor screening and milk shipment, and we are happy to send replacement breast milk storage bags upon request. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) prohibits compensation of donors due to ethical and safety issues. Our focus as a non-profit organization is to keep processing fees low to ensure that human donor milk is safe and accessible to families who need it most.
The IRS does not allow a deduction for any kind of human tissue, which includes breast milk. If you purchased equipment such as a breast pump and accessories that assist lactation, you could deduct these medical expenses per § 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code. You could also deduct mileage from your milk donation drop-offs.