how it works

1. Milk Arrives

Donors pump and store milk in their home freezers. For those that live nearby, milk can be dropped off to our facility. Donors that live outside of the greater Pittsburgh area ship their milk through FedEx. A box is sent to the donor along with packing instructions. Arrangements are made to have the packed box picked up at the donor’s home.

2. Thawing

Milk is thawed on trays overnight in the refrigerator.

3. Lab Prep

All utensils, flasks, and equipment that comes into contact with milk are washed and sanitized in a commercial high temperature sanitizing dishwasher. All lab personnel carefully scrub their hands and put on protective garments, including, hair, mouth, and shoe coverings.

4. Pooling

The thawed milk is poured through a strainer into glass flasks. The milk of up to 5 donors is pooled together.

5. Mixing/Homogenizing

The pooled milk is thoroughly and gently mixed by swirling and pouring the milk between the flasks.

6. Pouring

Milk is poured into sterile, BPA free bottles and closed with tamper resistant caps.

7. Pasteurizing

Filled bottles are put into baskets and placed into the pasteurizers. These units, manufactured by UK based ACE Intermed are built specifically for human milk and tightly control the pasteurization process. All HMBANA milk banks use the Holder Method of Pasteurization (62.5°C for 30 minutes) which destroys pathogens while maintaining the majority of the milk’s bioactive components which support the immune systems of our recipient babies.

8. Bacterial Cultures

A random bottle from each batch is sent for bacterial culture. If the bottle shows any growth, the batch cannot be used and will be offered for research or discarded.

9. Ready for Distribution

Processed milk is stored frozen and is distributed by hospital order or prescription only to NICUs and outpatients. The milk bank offers 50ml (usually reserved for Preemie milk), 100ml, and 200ml bottles.