Is donor milk safe?

Yes. The HMB adheres to guidelines developed in 2010 by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) regarding the screening, processing, and dispensing of donor milk to ensure its safety. Although donor milk is specially heat-treated to destroy harmful bacteria or viruses, 60% of the antibodies in the milk will survive and be functional to help the baby fight infections; 100% of the special sugars called oligosaccharides will survive and be functional to help the baby develop a strong immune system. As well as providing nutrition, human milk contains hundreds of components that help the brain to develop, the baby to grow normally, and the immune system to develop.

How can I become a donor?

We are actively recruiting donors. Please contact us via info@heartsmilkbank.org if you would like to talk through the process. Potential donors will be asked about their use of medications (prescription and non-prescription), whether they smoke, and whether they have needed a blood transfusion within the last 4 months. Donors then provide information about their medical history in a questionnaire, and undergo blood tests, similar to the screening processes used to donate blood. We will send you containers to collect and freeze your milk, and a thermometer so you can monitor your freezer temperature. One of our couriers will then collect your milk at a convenient time, chosen through our newly developed App.

What happens when the milk reaches the milk bank?

Donated milk is tested for bacteria, and pasteurized to kill any bacteria or viruses. It is then checked by the laboratory again for any contamination, and stored in a temperature-monitored freezer. It will then be couriered while still frozen to one of the hospitals within London or the southeast.

Can donor milk be used for full-term babies?

Yes. The HMB aims to recruit enough donors and process enough milk that other patient groups can benefit when their mother’s own milk is not available. These include babies who have undergone bowel or cardiac surgery, those who have mothers undergoing chemotherapy or with illnesses that can make breastfeeding impossible, and babies with terminal conditions who cannot tolerate other food.

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