Human milk bank

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A human milk bank, or breast milk bank is a service which collects, screens, processes, and dispenses by prescription human milk donated by nursing mothers who are not biologically related to the recipient infant. The optimum nutrition for newborn infants is breastfeeding, if possible, for the first year.[1] Human milk banks offer a solution to the mothers that cannot supply their own breast milk to their child, for reasons such as a baby being at risk of getting diseases and infections from a mother with certain diseases, or when a child has a condition such as necrotizing enterocolitis.[2] It was found that human milk banks had an increase in the amount of milk collected in 2012 compared to 2007, in addition the amount of milk donated by each donor had also increased.[3] Mothers' Milk Bank (MMB) says, this service provides mothers with an alternative to infant formula and allows the mother to give their newborn the nutrition it needs for healthy growth.[4] The International Milk Banking Initiative (IMBI), was founded at the International HMBANA Congress in 2005. It lists 33 countries with milk bank programs.[5] The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that the first alternative to a biological mother not being able to breast feed is the use of human milk from other sources.[6]

Donor Requirement[edit]

A donor must:

  • Be healthy
  • Be in the process of lactation
  • Undertake a chest x-ray or Tyne test
  • Have a negative VDRL
  • No evidene of Hepatitis

More requirements may apply. For example, the requirements in Australia can be found at:


Some concerns that surround human milk bank include:

  • Cost
  • Availability
  • Lack of health care provider interest
  • Concern about the type of women who might donate [7]


After the milk has been donated the primary consumer of the milk are premature babies; other consumers include adults with medical complications or conditions. The main reason why premature babies consume donor milk is that the mother cannot provide milk for the baby. The donor milk therefore acts as a substitute.[8]

Health benefits of human milk bank[edit]

Human milk banks offer families a chance to provide their child with reliable and healthy milk from other mothers. Human milk banks are needed as they offer milk which mostly is consumed by children whose mothers are not able to provide them with reliable milk. [9]


Brazil has an extensive network of 210 milk banks. In 2011, 165,000 litres (5,580,000 fl oz US) of breast milk were donated by some 166,000 mothers, and provided to nearly 170,000 babies. The Brazilian and Ibero-American Network of Human Milk Banks coordinates these efforts. Donors must be healthy and not taking any medication. The Brazil effort is part of an effort that has reduced infant mortality in the country by 73% since the 1990s.[10]


There are 203 active human milk banks in Europe, with 13 more planned as of 2014, according to the European Milk Bank Association (EMBA).[11]

Latin America, Spain, Portugal and Cape Verde Islands[edit]

The Brazilian program has been spread to countries in South America and to Spain, Portugal and the Cape Verde Islands.[10]

North America[edit]

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) has a "Guidelines for the Establishment and Operation of a Donor Human Milk Bank" [12] that establishes exhaustive guidelines for safe milk collection and usage in North America. There are 16 milk banks in North America as of 2014. They collect about 3,000,000 oz per year as of 2013.

South Africa[edit]

South Africa has a breast milk collection and distribution program, Milk Matters, based in Cape Town.[13]


As of 2014 Australia has a total of 5 Human Milk Banks in operation:

  • PREM bank (based at King Edward Memorial Hospital, WA and also supplying Princess Margaret Hospital);
  • Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NSW);
  • Mothers Milk Bank Pty Ltd (a private charity, previously located on the Gold Coast, now at Tweed Heads NSW and supplying the Brisbane Mater Children’s Hospital as well as some babies in the community);
  • Mercy Health Breastmilk Bank (commenced 2011 at Mercy Hospital for Women, Heidelberg VIC); and
  • Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital (RBWH) Milk bank (commenced November 2012 at the RBWH Grantley Stable Neonatal Unit).[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Benefits of Donor Human Milk for preterm infants
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Survey of Italian Human Milk Banks
  4. ^ Mothers' Milk Bank
  5. ^ International Milk Banking Initiative
  6. ^
  7. ^ Jones, F., RN, MSN, IBCLC. (2003). History of North American Donor Milk Banking: One Hundred Years of Progress. Journal of Human Lactation, 19 (3)313-318. doi: 10.1177/0890334403255857
  8. ^ Heiman, H., Schanler, R.J. (2006). Benefits of maternal and donor human milk for premature infants. Early human development 82, 781-787. Retrieved from
  9. ^ Simmer,K., Hartmann, B. (2009). The knowns and unknowns of human milk banking. Early Human Development 85 (2009), 701–704. Retrieved from
  10. ^ a b Breast-milk banks from Brazil to the world
  11. ^ European Milk Bank Association
  12. ^
  13. ^ Milk Matters
  14. ^ Donor Human Milk Banking in Australia

Further reading[edit]

  • Kara W. Swanson, Banking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk, and Sperm in Modern America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.

Reference List[edit]