Guide to Donating Breast Milk – What You Need To Know

If you are a breastfeeding mom who has extra breast milk, then you might be interested in donating it. Breast milk is the best food for babies and there are many ways that moms can donate their excess supply. If you are considering donating your breast milk, there are some things that you should know before starting. We have put together a guide for anyone who wants to donate their milk so they know what will happen when they get started. In this article, we will show you what to do before donating breast milk as well as where to find donation opportunities near you!

What is donor breast milk?

Donor breast milk is when expressed human milk is given to a person or an organization. This is usually donated to organizations such as the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

This milk is then pasteurized and given to preterm infants that are unable to be given their mother’s milk. It is also given to babies with health issues if they are unable to tolerate formula.

What do I need to know before donating?

If you are considering donating your breast milk, there are some things that you should know before starting. You will usually need to set up a phone interview with the orginization.

Then you will fill out some forms and lastly do a blood draw. Then the milk will be picked up and sent to a lab where it is processed. The milk can then be given out to infants who need them!

Where can I donate my breast milk?

There are several places that you can donate your excess supply of breast milk including:

In general, most hospitals have donor banks or programs where mothers can donate their milk.

You can also check with your local chapter of La Leche League if you want to help out in your community!

What are the benefits of donating human milk?

There are many reasons why donating is beneficial for mothers and infants alike. Here are some benefits that come from donating:

  • It helps preterm babies gain weight and reduces the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis
  • It helps infants with health issues that prevent them from tolerating formula
  • Mothers can feel good about helping other mothers and children in need
  • It provides an opportunity for mothers to continue breastfeeding after they have stopped producing milk themselves.
  • Donating breast milk is a great way to give back
  • Breast milk carries antibodies that prevent bacterial infections that can save lives

How do donor breast milk banks work?

Milk banks will pasteurize the milk to kill any viral contents.

After being heated at 62.5°C (144.5°F) or higher for thirty minutes, donor milk is available after it is tested negative for any bacteria.

After this, it is frozen and stored until an infant is given a prescription for human milk.

These milk banks provide milk to hospitals and intensive care centers.

Can I donate breast milk?

It’s always helpful to call any nearby milk shop to ask who will take your milk as soon as possible after having it frozen. Milk Banks do blood and urine exams and also ask questions about the living habits of the people who donate.

Who can donate breastmilk 

Breast milk donors must be:

  • In good overall health
  • If you have more than your child requires (you should never remove milk from your own babies to donate)
  • You are able to freeze your breast milk within 24-48 hours of expressing
  • Use only approved medications
  • Meet the minimum donation requirements of the human milk banks

What makes you ineligible to give breastmilk?

You may be unable to donate breast milk if you have:

  • HIV or are being treated for HIV
  • HTLV (human T-cell leukemia virus)
  • Hepatitis B or C, or syphilis
  • A sexual partner who is at risk for HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B or C, or syphilis.
  • Used recreational drugs in the last year

How much do you get for donating breast milk?

Most milk banks do not pay for the breast milk but they will take your donations as well as compensate you for the processing and shipping costs.

Donating Breast Milk – The Cost Involved

Donating and processing breast milk can be costly. Breastmilk banks must rely on charitable donations and charge approximately $3.50 per ounce (plus shipping) for the milk given to remain financially viable.

However, because of the above factors, it is the policy of all milk banks that no infant should go without breast milk for financial reasons. Donor milk banks have been supported as part of national efforts to promote breastfeeding by the World Health Organization/UNICEF.

Is donor breast milk better than formula?

During pasteurization, some nutrients can be lost but the donated breast milk would be more beneficial to these babies than any baby formula. Donor milk is much more beneficial for these fragile babies to receive.

It can prevent necrotizing enterocolitis, a disease that affects preterm and low birth weight babies during their first month of life by promoting gut maturation.

Human breast milk also has anti-inflammatory properties which research shows help with brain development in premature infants as well as reducing the risk of developing asthma and other respiratory problems.

Babies who receive donor milk also have a lower incidence of sepsis (a potentially life-threatening infection in newborns) and diarrheal diseases than those that do not.

donating breast milk

Is donated breast milk good for babies?

Premature and sick babies will benefit from donated breast milk since it can prevent many infections and can even save their lives.

Using the baby’s own mother’s milk is always the first choice but if the mother is not making enough milk or is unable to produce any at that time, the baby would benefit from donor milk.

What can I do with extra frozen breast milk?

If you have extra milk that you would like to donate you can reach out to any milk bank or you can choose to do more informal milk sharing through breastfeeding groups.

Can you donate unused breast milk?

This depends if it was frozen within the needed time frame or if you have already been approved by the organization. If not you can meet up with any informal milk sharing networks to provide breast milk for those in need.

Can you donate breast milk to the hospital?

Most hospitals work with an organization such as the HMBANA. Contact the hospital that you wish to donate to and see which organization they work with.

Should you donate breast milk?

A mother’s breast milk is nutritionally optimal for sick and healthy babies alike. If you have more milk than your own baby needs and have the desire to become a milk donor, then it can definitely be beneficial for you and the infants you help.

For women, having an abundance of human milk donated is an amazing thing if their baby isn’t able to get enough of it.

What happens when you donate breast milk?

After the donor milk reaches the local milk bank and has been frozen, it is ready to be dispersed out. Around 90% of milk gets sent to NICU hospitals in many states, in hopes that infant care can be improved.

The rest of the milk has to go to families that have been discharged from the hospital and sent home, but still need donated milk before the mother’s own milk comes in.

Is it safe to use other people’s breast milk?

If it is processed through a milk bank and has been pasteurized and tested then it is very safe to use donor milk.

Final thoughts

If you are a breastfeeding mom who has extra breast milk, then you might be interested in donating it. Breast milk is the best food for babies and there are many ways that moms can donate their excess supply. I hope this article will provide insights into what needs to happen before beginning as well as where you can find donation opportunities near you!

Be sure to read: 10 Tips for Managing Breast Engorgement and 17 Benefits to Breastfeeding a Toddler


Rady’s Hospital (donor breast milk)

Human Milk Bank (How to help)

Mother’s Milk Bank (Become a donor)

About the author

Lacy Reason is a highly experienced and compassionate lactation counselor, who has dedicated her career to educating and supporting new mothers on their breastfeeding journey.