Why Banked Milk for Milk Sharing?

By Lynn Gardner

We know that human milk is the gold standard for infant feeding for all babies under the age of one year.​

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“Some moms give their milk directly to the parents of babies in need, an exchange known as casual sharing. The intent behind casual sharing is wonderful – it’s a caring act of sisterhood. But we (Milk Banking Association of North America) believe strongly that it’s important to go the extra mile to have the surplus milk tested in a lab to make absolutely sure that it’s safe for any baby."

We know that human milk is the gold standard for infant feeding for all babies under the age of one year. The first choice for infant feeding is the mother’s own milk and an acceptable alternative is using pasteurized human milk from a registered milk bank. Human milk from an approved milk bank is pasteurized and both the donor mother and the donor milk are screened. The third choice is commercial infant formula. However, some mothers have resorted to using milk other than their own from a friend, family member or from mother’s selling their milk on the internet.

It is our recommendation and that of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), and the Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) to recommend AGAINST the use of unpasteurized donor milk for the following reasons.

Potential infections and diseases can be transmitted through unpasteurized donor milk such as Staph infections, Pseudomonas and other bacteria. These organisms can cause serious life threatening infections to infants. Viruses can also be passed through the milk such as Hepatitis, HIV and Cytomegalovirus (CMV). CMV can cause pneumonia or hepatitis in your infant. Hepatitis viruses can cause chronic liver infection resulting in liver failure and liver cancer. Donor mothers can be free of symptoms of illness and still transmit many of these germs that may cause illness in your child. The infection in your child may be undetected for months or even years.  In addition, breast milk donors may have used over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs or drugs of abuse. These substances may have untoward effects on your child including interaction with medications your physician may prescribe for your child. All substances ingested by the donor mother may be present in the milk.

The FDA Pediatric Advisory Committee convened a meeting of national experts and representatives from the Milk Banking Association on December 6, 2010 to discuss the safety, ethics and implications of donor human milk. The committee did not express concerns regarding the distribution of milk via an approved milk bank but were highly concerned with the growing practice of internet and person-to-person milk exchange. The practice of internet milk exchange was HIGHLY discouraged.

Again, we praise mothers who want to donate their excess milk to babies in need, however, we encourage these mothers to get in touch with an approved milk bank for donation to insure that their milk is safe for all babies. In Utah, the Salt Lake Mothers’ Milk donation Center serves as a screening and collection site for the non-profit Mother’s Milk Bank in Denver, Colorado (801-213-8841 or 877-458-5503). If you live elsewhere, you can check other milk banks by going to www.info@hmbana.org.