Do you breastfeed? Maybe you can’t and would like your baby to have breast milk. Well, now you can through Milk Banking. Milk banks basically store breastmilk for newborns whose mums can’t breastfeed them. Milk banks collect your expressed breastmilk from pre-screened mums, who have an abundant milk supply.

There are 17 milk banks across the UK, and each milk bank is a member of the United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking (UKAMB).

There are many reasons why newborns need donated milk. Premature babies are often sick, or to premature to breastfeed, and sometimes mums are poorly too through giving birth earlier than expected, and their milk supply may be delayed. If this is the case many SCBU (Special Care Baby Units) will feed the baby with donated breast milk, until mum is better and can keep up with her baby’s demands. Breast Milk is amazing it provides protection from infection, Protection against necrotising enterocolitis and ultimately it is easier to digest.

Sometimes, mums just can’t produce the quantities their baby requires and will need a top-up of donated breast milk to satisfy their hungry babies. Some mothers do not wish to resort to formula feeding.

Breastmilk has so many benefits for your baby, its called liquid gold for a reason.

So how does it work?

All donated milk goes through an extensive, rigorous screening process which includes the following: Each donor is tested for infectious diseases including HIV 1 & 2, Hepatitis B and C, Syphilis and HTLV (Human T-lymphotropic virus). When each milk donation is collected the donor is asked about any infections or medication which could potentially stop them from donating. Each donation of milk is then tested for bacterial contamination. Following the testing, they discard around 15% of donated milk as it is contaminated. This means that some donors may have had blood tests but their milk does not then meet our screening criteria. The milk with low bacterial contamination is then pasteurised to destroy any remaining bacteria or viruses.

How do you collect the breastmilk? How often?

Royal Berkshire Hospital sayEach bottle needs to be clearly labeled with the donor’s name and the date the milk was expressed and then put into a freezer. When a ‘batch of milk is ready to be collected, the donor should put it into a clean plastic bag. This should be tied and a luggage label attached with a sticker, identifying the donor. Any medication taken should also be added to the label. Contact the Milk Bank Administrator who will organise collection of your milk.‘  The volume of milk collected from each donor varies from woman to woman. Milk banks do accept ‘one off’ donations as every drop really does count. Premature babies are often very sick and their tiny tummies can only handle around 15-25ml of milk per day.

Is there anything that could stop a mother from donating her milk?

Yes, there are a few things that would stop a donor from donating her breastmilk. If you smoke or use nicotine replacement therapy. Also if you usually exceed the recommended alcohol levels for breastfeeding mothers which currently stands at 1 to 2 units, once or twice a week. Using or having recently used recreational drugs is also a no for obvious reasons. If you have previously tested positive for HIV 1 or 2, hepatitis B or C, human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV) type I or II, or syphilis, or if you are at an increased risk of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. Having a chronic or serious medical condition that requires certain medication. History of TB within the family, also if you have ever received growth hormones.

What are some of the reasons mothers donate their milk?

A mother may have a huge surplus of breastmilk. Baby may have allergies, Latching problems and therefore the baby is formula fed. Death of a baby – many mothers find comfort in donating their breast milk just like this mother who tells her story to BBC3

Can I donate?

First, you need to find your closest milk bank. Then make contact with them to review your specific situation, and to guarantee that they are able to accept your breast milk. The milk bank will then post you a questionnaire and blood test kit, which you will need to see your GP/Nurse to get the blood test taken, the kit is then sent back to the milk bank. where they will perform all the tests mentioned above.

Start pumping!