Breast milk from milk banks or other moms can transmit germs, viruses, and diseases, which is why it needs to be screened before donation.
Viruses and diseases, such as HIV, can pass through breast milk to the baby. Doctors, therefore, do not recommend feeding infants with other people’s breast milk.
If you want to donate or accept donated breast milk, you should always contact a breast milk bank with vigorous and standardized screening protocols.
Requirements to be a donor
Breast milk should be considered and handled as a human body substance. All donors must pass through a rigorous screening process similar to that used for donating blood, including an interview, serological screening, and physician consent. Serological screening includes testing for hepatitis B and C, HIV, and the human T cell leukemia virus. All milk must be properly collected, stored, pasteurized, and cultured.
Breast milk banking
A breast milk bank should have a medical director and a governing board that includes physicians, dieticians, lactation consultants, nurses, and infection control representatives. Lactation consultants should oversee the daily operation of the milk bank. Donors may also need aid from dietary technicians and help from clerical support staff.
Milk banking process
At the milk bank, the milk from up to four different mothers is batched to blend constituent variations. Then, the milk is thawed, and a bacterial culture is done. Subsequently, the milk undergoes Holder pasteurization (62.5°C for 30 min) in an industrial-grade pasteurizer, and another culture is done. Results from these laboratory checks will discard any substandard milk. While waiting for the final culture results, the milk is kept frozen. Upon receiving an order for donated milk, the milk bank transports the frozen milk, thaws it, and dispenses it as required.
Prepare to be a mother donor
All donor mothers must undergo the mentioned screening that must be repeated every six months. Mothers who smoke, drink, or are taking medications are not accepted. Those taking over-the-counter medications are temporarily excluded during the period of the medication. Once accepted as a donor, a mother is taught the techniques for safe collection and storage of her milk. She may express one extra feeding or multiple feeds per day.
Think again before accepting milk from others
Are you considering feeding your baby with donated breast milk? You should know that there are possible health and safety risks for the baby. These risks include exposure to infectious diseases like HIV, chemical contaminants from drug use, or toxins from prescription drugs. All of which result from poorly screened and handled donated milk.
Dr. Piyawut Kreetapirom, MD. (31 March 2021)