About the Milk Bank
Who benefits from Human Donor Milk?
There are approximately 1500 low birth weight babies in hospitals across Ontario a year and 70% of don’t have access to a full supply of their mother’s own milk, leaving them with reduced vital nutrients and protective properties. Donor milk could reduce their risk of life-threatening medical complications. The families of medically fragile babies will benefit from knowing that there is donor breastmilk available for their baby to supplement mother’s own supply.
What may prevent a mother from being able to provide milk for her own baby?
Most mothers wish to provide breast milk for their sick or preterm baby but may not be able to provide a full volume of milk due to:
- Maternal illness or delivery complications that delay the establishment of a milk supply.
- Insufficient supply if pumping for multiple births (i.e. twins).
- Stress of having a hospitalized, sick baby.
- Lack of hormonal stimulation from not being able to put the baby to the breast.
- Chronic infection or medical condition that precludes breastfeeding.
- A breast infection that temporarily affects milk production.
- Geographical separation from the baby.
How does the Milk Bank maintain high standards of quality?
The Milk Bank follows guidelines set by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) and public health regulations governing the handling, processing and storage of food.
What is pasteurized human donor milk?
Breast milk that has been donated to a milk bank and pasteurized in a heat treatment process that eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses.
The pasteurization process is similar to that used to ensure the safety of cow’s milk. Pasteurized donor milk goes through a rigorous testing process to ensure its safety.
Who is eligible to receive donor milk?
Babies who are born pre-term or are hospitalized after birth would be eligible (depending on the hospital, weight and gestation) to receive human donor milk. If you are unable to provide/produce breast milk for your baby, you can discuss the available options with your health-care provider.
Is there a cost to receive milk?
No. Donor milk is provided free of charge to eligible hospitalized babies by prescription.
Does pasteurization change breast milk?
Most of the unique nutrients and components, such as immune factors, found only in human breast milk are retained after pasteurization. There are slightly lower levels of some nutrients, however, all babies in the NICU have their growth monitored.
What is the guidance for donor milk usage for preterm babies of Jewish faith?
Jewish law recognizes the importance of human milk and it is considered pareve or non-dairy.
What is the guidance for donor milk usage for preterm babies of Islamic faith?
In Islam, the issue of using donor milk raises the question of whether this establishes kinship between the donor family and the infant receiving the donor milk.
In 2004, in response to this concern, well known religious scholars, backed by the European Council of Fatwa and Research issued a detailed ruling. The ruling stated that there is no barrier in Islam either to establish milk banks or to make use of them and that this type of feeding does not institute kinship.
My family follows a strict vegan/vegetarian diet. Does the Milk Bank screen donors based on the diet of donor mothers?
Each batch of donor milk is comprised of human milk from four to five donors, to blend for nutrients. We screen for adequacy of the diet of donor, but we do not have batches of donor milk from solely vegetarian or vegan mothers.
For babies who are born preterm or who are medically fragile, studies have shown that human milk provides not only nutrition, but also protection from some of the most severe health complications.
Is there a cost for mothers to ship their milk to the Milk Bank?
No, shipping arrangements to the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank will be provided free of charge.
Are donors paid for their milk?
Who can donate their milk?
You may be able to donate your milk if you are currently lactating with an abundant milk supply or have recently stored a large volume of milk. Mothers with infant loss during pregnancy or bereaved mothers after delivery are welcomed to donate their breastmilk in memory of their baby to help others. How to Donate Breast Milk »
Are there any known risks of using donor milk?
In decades of human milk banking worldwide, there have been no published reports of infectious diseases being caused by properly pasteurized human donor milk. The risk of infection, however slight, cannot be reduced to zero, just as the case with the use of blood products.
Does the Milk Bank accept breast milk that has already been pumped?
Yes, we do accept milk that has already been pumped, as long as it was pumped in accordance with Milk Bank cleaning guidelines, and it is within our storage guidelines (i.e., stored for 3 months in a fridge/freezer and 6 months in a separate deep freezer). All donors must be screened and approved in time for the frozen breast milk to get to the Milk Bank, within the storage guidelines.
Can I use my own pump?
Yes, screened and approved Milk Bank donors can use their own pumps at home to collect milk for donation.
What is the minimum donation required?
The Milk Bank requests a minimum of 5 litres (165 ounces) for donation, but welcomes larger volumes within our storage guidelines.
Are there health conditions that may prevent someone from donating?
Yes, women with specific health conditions such as HIV, active TB, hepatitis or chronic health conditions like multiple sclerosis or a history of cancer, are not eligible to donate milk. Learn More »
I am a Milk Bank donor, and I am now sick. Can I still donate my milk?
To maintain your milk supply during seasonal illnesses, it is important to continue to breastfeed your baby, or pump your milk on the same schedule as before you became ill.
It is fine to take an occasional acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) as the small amount that may transfer into breast milk is safe for milk donation. Certain cold and flu medications, cough syrups, and other over the counter medications may require a deferral period before pumped milk can be donated.
Can I donate to the Milk Bank if I have experienced infant or pregnancy loss?
The loss of a child is incredibly difficult. Some bereaved mothers find that donating milk can help with the grieving process. If you have experienced pregnancy loss after 20 weeks, you may be able to establish a milk supply for donation. The Milk Bank welcomes donors who have suffered an infant loss.