Donor Breast Milk

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Donor Breast Milk

Breastfeeding has long been recognised by the World Health Organisation as an essential part of new-born care; providing the best source of nutrition, infection prevention, providing closeness and bonding for babies and their families. 

Human milk is especially important for babies who are born sick, low birth weight or premature. Donor human milk provides a safe screened alternative to formula milk. Some hospitals can provide donated breast milk for your baby to have until your own supply is established.

It is recommended you do not buy donor milk over the internet. This is because the source cannot be confirmed and you cannot be sure whether the donor or the milk has been screened for infections.

Benefits of Donor Human Milk

Protection From Infection

Donor breastmilk is the preferred alternative to infant formula (or artificial milk). This is because donor breastmilk still contains many of the protective factors (such as immunoglobulins) which help protect premature babies from infection and are not present in formula which is prepared from cow’s milk.

Protection From Necrotising Enterocolitis

Necrotising Enterocolitis is a serious gut condition which mainly affects premature babies. Babies who receive breastmilk either mothers or donor, are at a significantly lower risk than those who receive formula. The reason for this remains unclear although there is evidence to support this.

Easier to Digest

A preterm baby’s intestine is very immature and can digest and absorb breastmilk more easily than formula milk. Premature babies are fed small amounts of breastmilk to help their gut mature and the volumes fed are increased gradually. This is also true for babies who have had surgery on their gut

Donor Human Milk at Home

For a number of mothers, establishing breast feeding may be challenging, with clinical support, some milk banks may be able to offer a little milk as a “bridge to breastfeeding” to support you. This can be discussed with your health professional and local milk bank.

Where breastfeeding is impossible due to health reasons or medications, some milk banks again may be able to offer donor human milk as an alternative to formula for a short period of time. This is often dependent on supply at the time, this can be discussed with your health professional and your local milk bank.