Food & Feeding

Breast Milk Donation: Everything You Need to Know to Give and Get

March 12, 2024

Author -

Melissa Iftimie

Looking to give or get breastmilk? You've come to the right place to learn about breastmilk donation.

Breast milk is often referred to as "liquid gold" because it has everything a baby needs to grow and thrive. It’s the coolest baby drink out there! But collectively, we have a supply and demand problem. Some families don’t have enough breast milk while others have too much. This is where breast milk donations come in. There are lots of ways to do this - ranging from formal milk banks to informal mom-to-mom swaps. Let’s take a look at how this all works.

Milk Banks: This Is As Formal As It Gets

Milk banks collect, screen, process, and distribute donor human milk, often neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) for premature and sick infants get first dibs.

Milk Banks should be registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), and some are licensed tissue banks. There are strict guidelines in order to distribute pasteurized human donor milk to hospitals and outpatient families. 

How it Works

Once milk arrives at a facility, it gets sorted, tested for bacteria, batched with other donors’ milk to create a uniform batch of donor milk. Together all that milk is pasteurized, and is then tested once again for bacteria. It is stored safely until it’s shipped to families and hospitals nationwide. 

How Do I Donate Breast Milk to a Milk Bank?

If you wish to go this route, reach out to a Milk Bank close by. The Human Milk Banking Association lists them all.

How Do I Get Breast Milk?

Who gets the milk varies by Milk Bank. That means, you might have to do a little leg work to get milk from a Milk Bank. Start with your pediatrician or hospital to ask for a contact or referral. Next, check out the Human Milk Banking Association. Look for Milk Banks near you, but also note that many will ship within the US. So start reaching out!

Option Two: Mom to Mom Swaps

This is a more personal and direct way of donating breast milk, where mothers share their excess milk with other mothers in their community.

How does it work? 

Donors and recipients typically connect through social media groups or community networks. Once you find a connection, it's common for donors to share their recent health and lifestyle history. There usually is no formal health screening. Milk is often handed over in person.

Where Do I Start If I Want To Give or Get Milk?

Here are a couple options for you to look into. 

Eats on Feets

Eats on Feets is a facebook group that has been around since 2010. They have local chapters you can join if you’re interested in milk sharing.

Human Milk 4 Human Babies

Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB) is another facebook group option. They have a global network. Check out this map to see the local facebook page for each state/province/country. These pages provide a space where families in need can connect with families who have milk to share. 

Share the Drop

Share the Drop takes a ‘dating app’ approach to milk sharing. It’s an app where you can register to give or get milk. Then there is a matching quiz based on your location and some other questions. It’s free if you want to share your milk, so get on there!

What You Need to Know About the Informal Route

OK, so there’s no official regulation here, so take a moment to make sure things feel right. 

  • Meet to swap milk in a public place
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about health and lifestyle
  • You can even ask for a reference

If You’ve Got More MIlk Than You Need

Generally, anyone who has extra milk can donate. Make sure you are healthy, and are not on any drugs where you are advised not to breastfeed. Requirements vary so be sure to take a look at those.

Why Donate?

It’s a pretty cool thing to do. You are helping another family out when they need the help. Good for you.

In Review: Do Your Research

Whether choosing to donate through a formal milk bank or in an informal mom-to-mom swap, take a moment to learn about the guidelines. Breast milk donation, no matter how you do it, is a valuable and selfless act that supports the health and growth of babies who need it most.

Latest posts

Read more