866.522.MILK (6455)

Who receives my donated breast milk?

All donated milk is received by critically-ill and premature infants in the NICU. It is administered exclusively under a physician's supervision while the infant is in the hospital. Your generous donation is shipped directly from your home to our processing partner. Your milk will be used to create human milk fortifier and standardized human milk, processed from 100% human breast milk and sold to hospitals across the United States.

Can I purchase breast milk from the National Milk Bank for my own baby?

No, we are not able to sell or distribute any of our donor's milk to the public. NMB assists with the donation process between our donors and partners. All milk collected is received exclusively by premature and critically-ill babies who have a prescription for it.

Will I be paid for my donations?

No, we depend on the generosity of our donors to share out of their precious supply on a donation-basis only. The current practice in North America is to accept breast milk donations without compensating the mother for the milk donation. Our aim is to collect only a mother’s surplus milk – milk that may otherwise be poured down the drain. To that end, we would not want to provide any financial incentive for a mother to donate milk which would, and should, be fed to her own infant. In addition, extensive pasteurization and testing to ensure the safety of their products for extremely vulnerable preemies, they still rely on the honesty of our donors in the initial screening process to document any health practices that would be relevant and potentially harmful, such as herbal supplements, drugs of abuse, or excessive alcohol use. Providing a financial incentive directly to the moms may impact the accuracy of that screening. Although we are not able to provide any monetary compensation to our donors, we do supply breast milk storage bags, cover all shipping expenses, and bear the cost for complete donor testing.

How do I know if I'm a good candidate to donate breast milk?

Almost any nursing mother can become a breast milk donor. If you are healthy with a good medical history, you are a likely candidate. You will need to complete a medical questionnaire, get consent forms signed by your doctor and baby's doctor, have your blood tested for diseases, and give a DNA sample (cheek swab), all at no cost to you. Please review our Qualification Guidelines for a more details.

Will you accept milk that was pumped prior to me contacting National Milk Bank?

Yes, in most cases we are able to accept any milk that has been properly stored and continuously frozen for up to 10 months.

Is there a minimum amount for donation?

Yes, our minimum amount for donation is 500 ounces. We ask that our donors collect this amount of milk prior to beginning our screening process so that we can make sure they have enough for at least one donation shipment.

How long does the screening process take to become a breast milk donor?

The entire screening process takes approximately 2-4 weeks. This time frame usually depends on how motivated the donor is to complete everything, and how quickly the Medical Confirmation forms, the freezer temperature reading, the blood testing and DNA samples are completed. Please review our Screening Process to get a detailed idea of what is involved in becoming a donor. All costs for testing and shipping are covered and there is never any cost to the donor.

How do I prepare to express my milk for donation?

Because you are pumping for critically ill babies, it is very important to carefully wash your hands with hot, soapy water. The water temperature should be as hot as can be tolerated without burning the skin. If you shower daily, you do not need to wash your breasts before pumping. If you are not able to shower daily, wash your breasts once a day. Take extra time to thoroughly wash your hands because harmful bacteria can be transmitted from your hands to the pumped milk. Though not necessarily dangerous to full term babies, some of these bacteria are dangerous to critically ill infants in the NICU and are not killed through pasteurization. Your donation will be tested for these bacteria and if they are found, your milk will be discarded. Do not handle your pump or your collection containers until you have washed your hands. Wash your pump parts regularly and collect breast milk into a dry, clean container which has been scrubbed with hot soapy water and thoroughly rinsed. The use of a sponge for washing is not recommended unless the sponge is only used to wash your breast milk bottles and the sponge is allowed to dry between uses. If possible, after the bottles and pump parts have been washed, run them through the dishwasher to sanitize them. Breast massage sometimes helps the flow of milk. After massaging the breast, roll the nipple back and forth using your index finger and thumb. Stretch the nipple slightly. This will encourage the release of hormones that help the flow of milk. Also, see our Storage & Expression page.

How should I store my milk?

Pump directly into the cleaned bottle connected to the pump. When you have finished your pumping session or the bottle is full, transfer the milk into a breast milk storage bag. Please label your bag with the mm/dd/yy. Ideally, we would like milk to be put in the freezer immediately after pumping. If this is not possible, we ask that you keep the milk in the refrigerator for no longer than 12 hours after expression before being put in the freezer. Containers should be stored separately from other foods in the freezer. Also, see our Storage & Expression page.

How do I send my breast milk donation?

After you have completed our screening process to become a qualified donor, we will send you all supplies necessary for shipping your generous donation to us. This includes a shipping container, gel packs, and a prepaid return label. There will be complete instructions included in the shipping container on how to package everything up. Once you are ready to ship, you can call FedEx to schedule a pickup. The milk is then sent overnight directly to our processing partner. As with everything else in the donation process, there is no cost to you.

How long does my donor qualification last?

Each donor qualification period lasts for approximately four months from the date that we receive your blood results. If you would like to continue your donation past the first qualification period, we ask that you complete a new online application and blood test to ensure nothing has changed with your health. We notify our donors when they are about twenty days away from their qualification expiration date to see if they are interested in requalifying. This usually gives them plenty of time to requalify so that there is not a gap in the time they can donate their milk.

If I complete the screening process to donate through NMB, am I qualified to donate through any other milk bank, organization, etc.?

No, your qualification to donate through National Milk Bank does not qualify you to donate through any other milk bank or organization. We are a separate entity from any other milk banks in the United States, so if you are looking to donate through more than one milk bank, you would need to complete an entirely new screening process.

What if I start taking a new medication?

While some medications are safe to use for your own, healthy, little one, we usually have to remain ultra conservative, as all of our donor's milk is received by critically-ill and premature infants in the NICU. Please contact us if you need or decide to start taking any new medication, supplement, etc., whether it is prescribed or OTC. We will be able to let you know if it is permitted to use while donating.

What if I become ill?

If you or a member of your family are feeling under the weather, even if it is something as simple as the common cold, yeast infection, etc., please let us know. We will be able to tell you how to appropriately separate out any milk you may collect at that time, if needed.

Can I drink alcohol while donating?

Yes, we are able to accept milk from donors consuming no more than two units of alcohol. One unit of alcohol for our purposes is classified as one glass of wine, one beer, or one shot of liquor.

Can I drink caffeinated beverages while donating?

Yes, we are able to accept milk from donors consuming no more than 24 ounces (or 300 mg) of a caffeinated beverage per day.

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