Accessing donor milk

Our primary aim is to ensure that hospitals caring for the sickest, most premature babies, whose mothers need additional support, have assured supplies of donor milk. When we have sufficient supplies available, we make donor milk available to parents facing breastfeeding challenges.

Any family accessing donor milk will need the support and oversight of a healthcare professional. This is to make sure that the milk is being requested and used appropriately, and that the mother’s own lactation is being supported. Healthcare professionals could include a GP, paediatrician, community midwife or dietician, or IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).

The Hearts Milk Bank is a not for profit organsiation. However it does need to cover its costs when providing donor milk. These include premises, staffing, equipment and operational costs, donor recruitment and blood tests and all the microbiology tests on the milk.  The HMB does not request or accept payment directly from parents. If breastfeeding is impossible, for example as a result of previous mastectomies or medication use that is contraindicated in lactation, then contacting us early during pregnancy helps our planning. We encourage applications for funding for donor milk to be made to your local Clinical Commisioning Group, and this can be done with the support of your GP. We are happy to provide information and support for this process.

If funding is not granted by the CCG, then the Human Milk Foundation may be able to provide some funding towards donor milk use.

If you are having difficulties establishing your supply and reluctant to supplement with infant formula, please read the guide to Accessing Donor Milk to Support Breastfeeding, and read the case studies below.

Contact the milk bank

Initial feeding difficulties

Steph had been suffering pain while breastfeeding since her baby was 2 days old, with badly cracked nipples. She felt her milk supply was not keeping up with her baby's needs, and she was frequently in tears and becoming desperate. After a long discussion with her community midwife, Steph phoned the Hearts Milk Bank. Jo, the milk bank's IBCLC, drove out that afternoon to assess her. Jo diagnosed a tongue tie and helped with advice about hand expressing and who could divide the tongue tie. She recommended that between 10-20 ml donor milk should be given after each feed using a supplemental nursing system. Half a litre of donor milk was supplied, and Steph went on to exclusively breastfeed. She is still breastfeeding her baby eight months later.

Unable to breastfeed

Paula was diagnosed with breast cancer at 20 weeks gestation, and her baby was delivered early so that she could undergo chemotherapy and surgery. Baby was unable to tolerate formula, but not eligible to receive donor milk from the hospital milk bank. They suggested Paula contact the Hearts Milk Bank, and we were able to send over 20 litres of milk to feed Paula's baby for the first three weeks of her life.

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I need donor milk

Find out what is involved and whether donor milk is appropriate for your child.

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