Donate milk
Donate milk

Donating milk can be a rewarding experience that positively impacts the health and well-being of the families of our region.

Generous volunteer donors complete a simple but thorough screening process. All screening and shipping costs are paid for by the milk bank. Compensation of donors is strictly prohibited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America due to ethical and safety issues. As a non-profit organization that exists for the benefit of the community, this also helps us to keep milk processing fees as low as possible.

Could I be a donor?

Many of the babies that we serve have serious medical conditions and require extra precautions. For your healthy infant, the criteria below may not apply. Take this quick self-assessment quiz to see if you might be able to be a donor.

I am confident in my milk supply and have milk that exceeds my own baby’s needs. Or, I am a bereaved mother or surrogate.

I am willing to donate at least 150 ounces over a six-month period. This minimum amount is waived for bereaved mothers.

I am willing to undergo blood testing.

I am willing to practice exceptional hygiene and carry out careful pumping, labelling, and storage procedures.

The milk that I will donate was pumped on or before my baby is 15 months old.

The milk that I will donate was stored no longer than five months in a refrigerator/freezer combo or no longer than eight months in a stand-alone freezer (chest or upright).

I do not use tobacco or marijuana products of any kind.

I do not regularly consume alcohol (occasional use is acceptable, and we ask that you refrain from pumping for the milk bank for 12 hours after the consumption of alcohol).

I do not take vitamin supplements that exceeds 20x the recommended daily allowance (RDA).

I do not consume herbal supplements including those contained in capsules, teas, supplemental/nutritional beverages/shakes, or energy drinks; please note that Mothers’ Milk Tea and fenugreek are not permitted.

I consume less than 24 ounces of caffeinated beverages a day.

I do not take high blood pressure medications.

I have no history of intimate contact with anyone at risk for HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.

A note about prescription medications: Some prescription medications, including certain antidepressants, are compatible with donation.

If you agreed with all of the above statements, you may be eligible to donate, and we encourage you to begin the screening process, if interested. Please note that these statements do not imply approval. Certain chronic conditions, illnesses, medications, supplements, and other factors may prevent you from being a donor. If you would like to discuss your eligibility with us, or would like to begin the screening process, please contact us at donate@midatlanticmilkbank.org or 412-281-4400 or fill out the form below:

The screening process

Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank strictly follows the donor screening guidelines of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Our screening personnel, who are all either nurses or lactation consultants, are committed to making the screening process as convenient as possible and are available to answer questions throughout the entire screening and donation process.

  1. Interview
    We start with a 15-minute phone interview in which you will be asked questions about your general health, medications/supplements use, and common reasons for ineligibility.
  2. Complete the application packet
    The second step is completion of the application packet (online or by mail) with more details about your medical history, medications, diet, and general health.
  3. Statements of health
    With your permission, we will contact your health care provider, and your baby’s doctor, for statements about your health and ability to donate milk.
  4. Get bloodwork
    After the initial screening steps above, eligible donors are asked to complete bloodwork, identical to testing done by blood banks. This includes HIV, HTLV, Hepatitis B and C, and syphilis. The milk bank has several options to ensure that every donor can easily have her blood drawn close to her home.

Once approved, donors can drop off their frozen milk to our lab in Pittsburgh, to a local depot, or we can make arrangements for it to be picked up by FedEx at the donor’s home.

Please note that bacterial culture testing is done after milk pasteurization. On rare occasions an approved donor may become ineligible due to repeated positive cultures. These positive results simply reflect normal skin bacteria and have nothing to do with the health of the donor or her baby.

Preparing to donate

It is helpful to be aware of our pumping and storage instructions as soon as you consider the possibility of donating.

Pumping

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly using soap and warm water before pumping. Dry with a clean towel.
  2. If you are pumping directly into a collection container, open it and place the cap inside up on the table. If you are collecting and transferring the milk to another container, such as a bag, keep that container closed until you are ready to fill it. Do not touch the top lip of the container or the inside of the cap, container, or bag.
  3. DO NOT OVERFILL bags or containers. You must leave room for expansion as the milk freezes. We will not be able to use milk that leaks outside of torn bags/containers.

Cleaning your pump

  1. Clean your pump parts.
    •  Rinse each piece that comes into contact with human milk.
    •  Wash each piece separately using liquid dishwashing soap and plenty of warm water.
    •  Rinse each piece thoroughly. Be sure to rinse off all of the soap.
    •  Place the washed pieces on a clean paper towel or drying rack and allow to air dry. Do not use cloth towels to dry your pump parts because they can carry germs and bacteria.
    •  Try not to touch the inside of any parts that will come in contact with your human milk.
    •  Inspect tubing for moisture after each use and clean/dry, if necessary.
    •  Consult your pump’s instruction manual to determine which parts should be washed and the best way to remove them.
    •  Read and follow your pump manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Once per day, sanitize your pump parts using one of the methods below (read manufacturer’s instructions).
    •  Place washed pump parts in a saucepan and cover with water. Heat on the stovetop and bring to a boil. Boil for 5-10 minutes.
    •  You can also use Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bags or similar product.
  3. Wipe the outside of the tubing and the pump itself with a disinfectant wipe (any brand).

Storage

  1. Breast milk storage bags are available upon request. Any brand of commercially available containers such as bags and bottles that are specifically designed to store breast milk are acceptable. Mark each bag with the following information using a permanent marker:
    •  Your Donor ID number (can be added once assigned).
    •  Date milk was pumped. No milk will be accepted without a date.
  2. Refrigerate or freeze milk within 30 minutes of pumping. If necessary, you may refrigerate milk for up to 24 hours before freezing. Do not add freshly pumped milk to cold milk.
  3. Place milk in the rear or bottom of your freezer, whichever is coldest.
Drop offs and shipping

Approved donors can arrange to drop off milk at the following locations:

Mid-Atlantic Mother’s Milk Bank
3127 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15201

The Breastfeeding Resource Center
A community based non-profit organization committed to providing expert clinical and educational breastfeeding services.

1355 Old York Road Suite 101
Abington, PA 19001

987 Old Eagle School Road
Wayne, PA 19087

Excela Square at Norwin
An Excela Health affiliated community medical center

8775 Norwin Avenue
Irwin, PA 15642

Lehigh Valley Breastfeeding Center
An Eastern Pennsylvania practice dedicated to assisting mothers and mothers-to-be on the their prenatal, parenting, and breastfeeding journey.

1517 Pond Road
Allentown, PA 18104

LifeCycle Womancare
A non-profit birth and women’s healthcare center that provides exceptional healthcare services for women of all ages.

918 County Line Road
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

Don’t live near a dropoff site? No problem! Shipping is always an option and it is easy. We send you a box with packing instructions and FedEx picks the box up from your home.

How is my milk processed?

Testing and pasteurization

  • Drug Testing: All milk pools are tested for a panel of common drugs including those that may be used during the post-partum period.
  • Nutritional Analysis: Calorie, protein, fat, and carbohydrate content information allows NICUs to create the best human milk nutrition plan for each tiny preemie.
  • Pasteurization: Once bottled, milk goes through a low temperature pasteurization process which eliminate pathogens while keeping important bioactive components intact.
  • Bacterial Culturing: After pasteurization, a random sample is taken from each batch and sent to the lab of a local hospital for bacterial culturing.

Learn more about how it works.

Special milk

  • Isolation: Preterm milk is used in the NICU. Milk from donors with special diets is used by outpatients with allergies/sensitivities.
  • Skimming: Sometimes after cardiac surgery, babies develop a complication that requires a very low-fat diet. If these babies do not have access to their own mother’s milk, which can be defatted in the hospital, we skim donor milk for them in our lab.
  • Cream: We never waste milk. Cream is used by both NICUs and outpatients for specific purposes.
Where does donor milk go?

Your donated milk will make a big difference in the health of a baby. It will be used in one or more of the following ways:

  • Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs): Approximately 75-80% of the milk donated to our milk bank is used by four NICUs and cardiac intensive care units (CICUs). Typical NICU recipients are babies born at or below 1.8 kg (3 lbs. 15 oz.) or those with congenital or acquired gastrointestinal or cardiac issues. There are thousands of NICU recipients in our region each year.
  • Mother Baby Units: Some hospitals use donor milk for all babies who require supplementation, even healthy babies. Such supplementation is usually very minimal. More hospitals are expanding to this type of use to support healthy gut bacteria and promote maternal exclusive breastfeeding success. Currently, less than 5% of the donor milk from our bank is used in this way.
  • Outpatients: Outpatient use is 25-30% of donor milk from our milk bank. A prescription is required, and the vast majority of these recipients have very significant medical issues. Medically necessary donor milk is typically covered by insurance. Many of these babies have rare conditions or have exhausted all other nutrition options. Outpatient recipients consume 20-30+ ounces per day. At any given time, we have more than a dozen outpatients in our care.
    Occasionally, we receive prescriptions for discretionary use where there is little to no access to mother’s own milk such as adoption, mastectomy, or bridge milk, and the baby does not have a documented medical need. These prescriptions are filled only if all hospital and ill outpatient needs are met and such milk is unlikely to be covered by insurance.
  • HMBANA Sister Milk Banks: One of the best things about being a non-profit milk bank accredited by HMBANA is sharing. Since all 27 milk banks follow the same strict safety guidelines, we can help one another to ensure that all NICUs and ill outpatients across the United States and Canada have what they need. Our milk bank has been both a giver and a recipient. The sharing that our milk bank does is very minimal.
Costs of donated milk
Click to enlarge

Donor milk requires testing and pasteurization for the safety of its recipients who typically have complex medical needs. (Learn more about safety here.) The milk bank, similar to a blood bank, relies on fees from hospitals or recipients to cover the significant costs associated with donor screening, testing, and processing.

This fee, in the NICU, is paid by the hospital, as each hospital orders a supply and distributes it according to their own evidence-based criteria. For outpatients with documented medical needs, the cost of donor milk is typically covered by insurance. For the occasional cases of medically necessary donor milk that are not covered, Mid-Atlantic Mothers’ Milk Bank has an income-based sliding scale program to offset costs for families.