7 Ways to Keep Baby Safe When Using Donor Breast Milk

Mom Moment 9

breast milkWe've been getting a lot of good news about breastfeeding lately. The number of moms doing it is up, and the resources for parents who need to get breast milk for their babies are growing too. Last year, donor milk banks dispensed 2.5 million ounces of milk. So why are parents turning away from the banks in droves?

It turns out many parents who want to give their baby breast milk but don't have the means are doing it the old-fashioned way -- they're going straight to moms. This helps parents avoid the costs of a bank and make sure the bank's milk goes directly to babies in hospital NICUs. It also makes sure babies get all the antibodies in breast milk, some of which is cooked out of donor milk during pasteurization.

Going personal should be big win, right? Maybe.

Donor banks check the milk for disease and pasteurize it to protect your baby. You don't have that guarantee when you go private. Even the FDA warns parents against it.

So how can parents keep their kiddos safe when they go the private breast milk donor route? Here are some safety tips you should be following:

1. Check the laws. Although legal in most areas of the country, there are certain laws that govern donor milk. In California, for example, breast milk cannot be sold, although it can be donated.

2. Check your donor's background. The most popular milk sharing sites, Eats on Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies, both run off of Facebook groups, where you can crowd source to get other moms' experiences.

3. Ask for a blood test. If a mom is willing to be a donor, she should also be willing to be screened for HIV 1&2, hepatitis B&C, syphilis, and HTLV 1&2.

4. Ask for a letter from her doctor. This will help catch anything a blood test might have missed.

5. Sign a donor contract. It's up to you what you put in here, but it can include lifestyle concerns such as not smoking.

6. Try home pasteurization. Not a choice for everyone, but if you're still concerned about disease, there are means to do at home what donor banks do.

7. Flash heat the milk. This method is another option for killing bacteria that many moms prefer to pasteurization. It will kill HIV in particular in the milk without destroying other antibodies.

Would you be willing to try a private donor to get your baby the breast milk they need?


Image via daquella manera/Flickr



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Pinkmani Pinkmani

If I were to adopt, I would rather induce my own lactation. I just wouldn't be able to trust someone else. 

miche... micheledo

I have donated to other moms, but I don't think I would use donor milk unless I knew the mom VERY well.

Sweet... SweetMelancholy

This whole thing makes me nervous. I've always wanted to breastfeed but will never be able to because I was in a fire as a teenager and have fake, reconstructed breasts/nipples. Where I live there are not many options to use milk banks. I would like to use a private donor but unless it's someone I personally know VERY well it scares me. Blood tests only tell so much about someone's lifestyle. I'm not against formula but wouldn't rather use breastmilk if possible. I'm trying for a baby now so hopefully when the time comes there will be a bank in my area or I can find someone I can trust.

Maggie Dubois

I have donated to a few women and our experience has been so wonderful. I have a very strict dietary regimine due to my own daughter's food intolerances and I know this makes many moms feel even better about choosing to use my breast milk. It has created opportunities for close friendships with other women, as there is something very intimate about helping to feed another child. I would use donor milk in a heartbeat if I needed to!

nonmember avatar Chris

I have a large freezer stash, I need to do some donation. I'm glad to give what I have to help other mothers who would choose to use breastmilk.

nonmember avatar lactatingmoose

i think these concerns are largely unfounded. think.about what KIND of mothers actually decide to donate. not drug using disease riddled mommas. if its not safe for THEIR OWN kids they certainly arent donating milk.

dietary concerns are valid. there are enough moms in need of milk who arent soy or.gluten or dairy free that a mom who says she is has NO REASON to lie to you just so you will take her milk.

jbell256 jbell256

I would want my baby to get the antibodies only mother's milk can provide, so I would probably forego the milk banks and opt for a private donor that I trust. A friend of mine once told me that she and a friend would nurse each other's children when they babysat for one another, and I always thought that was the most beautiful thing a mother could do for another mother.

Margo Alleman

I had a close friend that just dried up one day, just after I quit working and pumping and I had too much for my baby to handle, so I would pump as much as I needed and gave it to my friend. She was so thankful!

Jen Martinez

What about drug/alcohol testing? Do the banks do it? What about private donors?

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