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How to Become a Human Milk Donor

By Carissa Hawkins, Communication Coordinator, Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank

The information provided below is a general overview of how to become a donor for a Human Milk Banking Association of North America Milk Bank. While we’ve tried to be as accurate as possible, some HMBANA banks might have slightly different requirements. Please contact your closest HMBANA Milk Bank directly

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Carissa with her OWN milk donation!

Becoming a human milk donor is an incredibly valued and important role. Currently, there are 13 HMBANA milk banks serving all of North America and many of them have experienced donor shortages over the last few years as demand for donor milk has grown.  HMBANA banks provide pasteurized milk via physician prescription to some of the most vulnerable infants, where access to donor milk can sometimes literally be life-saving. HMBANA estimates they need 9 million ounces of donated breast milk to fill the needs of NICU babies in the US alone. For many women, the path to donating may seem intimidating but, in reality, by following a few simple steps, we can get you on your way quickly!

Step #1: Contact your closest HMBANA Milk Bank for pre-screening.

For most HMBANA Milk Banks, calling them by phone is the fastest way to start the pre-screening that is required for donors. We pre-screen potential donors to make sure that the donor human milk we provide is free of substances that could compromise the health of the critical babies we serve and assists us in processing milk in the most efficient manner possible. You will connect with the Donor Mother Coordinator who will ask you a number of questions such as:

  • How old is your baby?
  • Was he or she born before 36 weeks gestation?
  • Are you donating milk collected prior to contacting the milk bank?
  • Since you started storing your milk, have you taken or are you currently taking any prescribed or over-the-counter medications (used regularly or occasionally) including birth control, allergy medications, or alternative treatments?
  • Are you willing to have a simple blood test, at the milk bank’s expense?
  • Do you use nicotine products?
  • Do you use illegal drugs?
  • Can you donate at least 100 ounces or more? (Volume requirements vary by Milk Bank.)

A number of Milk Banks also have pre-screening on their website. You can fill out the questionnaire online at your convenience.

Step #2: Fill Out Appropriate Paperwork

Your conversation with the Donor Mother Coordinator helps us to determine if you meet the Donor Selection Criteria. We want to make sure that both you and your baby are healthy enough to take on the task of donation. This paperwork needs to be filled out and returned to the Milk Bank. Some banks also have the option of filling out these forms online. Included in your packet will be:

  • A consent form for you to sign and return to the milk bank.
  • A Donor Interview and Lifestyle Questionnaire to fill out and return.
  • A Healthcare Provider Release for you to forward to your OB/GYN.
  • A Healthcare Provider Release for you to forward to your Pediatrician
  • Blood Testing Information
  • Collecting and Storage Guidelines
  • Medication and Lifestyle Guidelines

Step #3: Have a Simple Blood Test

The milk bank will provide you with the information necessary to have your blood drawn. You will receive a form to take to your local lab or a kit that can be shipped to have your blood drawn by your health care provider. All HMBANA Milk Banks will cover the cost of this blood draw and it is a similar experience as to what you had while pregnant. The results of your blood testing will be forwarded directly to the Milk Bank. HMBANA Milk Banks test for the following:

  • HIV 1, 2 & O
  • Hepatitis B & C
  • HTLV I & II (Human T-lymphotropic virus)
  • Syphillis

Step #4: Review and Approval

After all of your paperwork and blood testing results are returned to the Milk Bank, your file will be submitted to the Clinical Coordinator for review and approval. You will then be contacted by the Donor Mother Coordinator, who will give you a donor number and provide you with options for transporting your milk to the Milk Bank.

Step #5: Send Us Your Milk!

There are a number ways that donors get their milk to us. Here are some of our options. Ask at your local Milk Bank for specific methods that they use:

  • Milk Pick Up – If you are local to the Milk Bank, staff are occasionally available to come to your home to pick up your milk.
  • Milk Drop Off – If you are within driving distance of a HMBANA Milk Bank, you can come by our office during our business hours and deliver your milk to us yourself!
  • Milk Depot – Many Milk Banks have convenient drop off locations. These locations are operated by volunteer staff who will take care of the packing and shipping of your milk to the Milk Bank.
  • Shipping – If none of the other options are available to you, the Milk Bank will ship you a cooler for you to fill with your milk and 5 lbs of dry ice. It will also include an overnight return label and instructions on how to pack the box so that your milk arrives safe and sound. Dry ice can be purchased at some grocery stores or your local Praxair or Home City Ice location. Some ice cream shops and hospital laboratories sell dry ice as well. Make sure you forward your dry ice receipt to the Milk Bank for reimbursement.
Carissa with her OWN milk donation!

Carissa with her OWN milk donation!

Step #6: Feel Fantastic About What You’ve Done!

Your hard work pumping is paying off in the lives of babies you will probably never meet. You can take pride in your donation and your commitment to health babies and their families. 

Step #7: Share Your Story!

We’d love to connect with you by Facebook and hear about your HMBANA donation experience. And, we’re suckers for cute donor baby photos, too!

Carissa Hawkins Headshot- USEAbout Carissa Hawkins, Communications Coordinator:  Everyone said Motherhood would change me. I knew they were right, I just didn’t anticipate a career change in addition to all the other capacities I have gained after having my first child. I chose to breastfeed and quickly found that I was making more milk then my babe would use, so I donated. My role at Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank is all things marketing and communications. I have a Bachelors Degree in Communication Studies and have worked in care coordinator since graduating. I am so thankful to be using my skills for such a worthy population. Aside from spending time with my baby girl and biking, I volunteer with the Junior League of Indianapolis. Feel free to contact me: chawkins@immb.org.

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