Update July 21, 2021**New Eligibility**
Throughout the pandemic, the Milk Bank has continued to have a large volume of human donor milk. At the discretion of your health care team, eligibility to receive donor milk, where deemed beneficial, can extend to all NICU infants for the first month of age.
Information about COVID-19 is rapidly evolving as research is ongoing and is being published at record speed. The information below is what we now know.
New COVID-19 vaccine guidance:
For milk bank donors who receive a vaccination for COVID-19, there is no deferral period therefore it is safe to donate your milk following a vaccination with the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. If new vaccines are introduced, deferral periods may be required according to the vaccine that you receive. It is important for you to note the day of your vaccine and which vaccine you received. Please continue to express and store your milk and contact the milk bank for further advice once you have been vaccinated.
Here is a resource to help guide your decision-making from the Provincial Council on Maternal and Child Health. “I am pregnant. Should I get the COVID-19 Vaccine?” Infographic.
For the mother who is exposed to COVID-19 or who is COVID-19 positive:
Mother’s milk contains an abundance of antibodies and other immune factors to protect her baby from harmful bacteria and viruses. In rare cases, when a mother is positive for COVID-19, the virus may appear in her milk. As indicated in this article, current recommendations are for mothers who have COVID-19 to wear a mask and wash their hands well, but to continue to breastfeed their babies! Your antibodies are an important form of protection from COVID-19. If you are unable to breastfeed, then pumping your milk to give to your baby is the next best option for infant feeding.
For donors to the milk bank who are exposed to COVID-19 or who are COVID-19 positive:
For mothers who have abundant milk supply and who are eligible to be milk donors, we encourage you to consider milk donation once you and your household have recovered from this illness. Recent research has shown that pasteurization, done at an authorized milk bank, kills viruses in the donated milk making it safe for the sick or preterm infants at hospitals supplied by the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank.
In Case You Missed It
Dr. Sharon Unger, Medical Director of the Milk Bank, was recently featured in a Toronto Star article on COVID-19 antibodies in human milk. Read the full article and learn more about the ongoing research into how human milk can provide protection against COVID-19 in newborns.
Thank you for considering becoming a milk donor!It is a significant commitment but will provide you with the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped give a fragile, preterm infant a fighting chance. Please help us assess your eligibility.
How to Donate Breast Milk
Thank you for considering becoming a milk donor!
It is a significant commitment but will provide you with the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped give a fragile, preterm infant a fighting chance. Please help us assess your eligibility.
Step 1: Do you meet the safety criteria?
Even though your breastmilk is perfect for your own baby, there are some things that may make you permanently or temporarily ineligible to donate for the sick, preterm babies that receive pasteurized donor milk. If you fall into any of these categories, you may not be eligible to donate:
- Taking most medications on a regular basis.
- If you, or your partner are at risk for HIV.
- Testing positive for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), HTLV (Human T-lymphotropic Virus), Hepatitis B or C, or Syphilis.
- If you have used illegal drugs in the past 5 years
- If you, or your partner have had acupuncture, tattoos, or blood transfusions in the past 6 months.
- Living or travelling in certain countries including: more than 3 months in France, Saudi Arabia or the United Kingdom between 1980-1996, and/or a total of 5 years in Western Europe or Saudi Arabia from 1980 – 2007.
If you fall into any of these criteria, your final eligibility will be determined at your telephone interview. If you are ineligible to donate milk but still want to support our Milk Bank, please consider making a financial gift by clicking here, or help us spread the word to others in your network.
Step 2: General Health Screening
- In good general health, and nursing a baby who is less than 18 months of age? Bereaved donors or those who have suffered a late miscarriage or stillbirth who meet eligibility and chose to pump milk in honour of their baby are accepted.
- Willing to complete a medical phone interview with a nurse?
- Willing to have a special blood test done at a LifeLabs location near your home?
- Free from smoking, illegal drug use and regular alcohol use?
- Not taking medications, including most antidepressants and galactagogues (medications or herbs to increase milk supply)? It is generally OK to be taking progestin-only birth control pills, thyroid replacement hormones, insulin, nasal sprays, topical treatments, eye drops, prenatal vitamins and regular dose supplements.
- Able to get your health care provider to complete medical history forms for you and your baby?
- Able to pump at least 5 Litres (about 150 oz.) of milk over a 2 month period of time? (If you are pumping 4oz of extra milk per day, it will take about 5 weeks to collect 150 oz. of milk.)
If you answered YES to all of these questions, you are a strong candidate to becoming a milk donor! Please proceed to Step 3.
Step 3: Learning what it takes to donate milk
We recognize the donating breast milk is a significant and generous commitment. You are doing this at a time in your life when your hands are likely very full. Please take the time to watch this 5 minute video and assess whether this is a commitment that you can make:
Step 4: Fill out and Submit this Form
If you’ve decided you would like to be contacted by phone to complete the donor screening interview to donate breast milk, please fill out and submit this form. You can anticipate a call from one of our lactation consultants within several weeks. Don’t worry if you don’t hear from us right away…we very much want to have you as a donor, if you are eligible! On behalf of Ontario’s most vulnerable babies and their parents…thank you!