For Healthcare Providers

Healthcare Provider Education

Mother’s own milk is a superfood that promotes optimal growth and development. Human milk is species specific and contains thousands of immune factors, including antibodies, that are not found in formula (Kim & Froh, 2012). When mother’s own milk is not available there are two options: pasteurized donor human milk or commercial formula. Pasteurized donor milk is heat treated to destroy bacteria and viruses. Many powerful immune factors are retained after pasteurization to protect against infection (Figure 1).

Bioactive Human Milk Factors 1. Mom’s Milk 2. Donor Milk 3. Formula
Human Milk Oligosaccharides 100% 100% 0%
sIgA antibody 100% 70% 0%
Lysozyme 100% 75% 0%
Lactoferrin 100% 40% 0%
Figure 1. Select immune factors in mom’s milk, pasteurized donor human milk, and formula (based on data from Tully, Jones, & Tully, 2001).

Breastfeeding mothers produce immune factors that are tailor-made for their babies. Their bodies activate real-time antibodies that target bacteria and viruses in their environment. Milk Bank WGL donor mothers share these amazing local antibodies with recipient babies in the hospital and home setting.

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Donor Milk in the NICU

Preterm infants have fragile, underdeveloped gastrointestinal (GI) systems. Mother’s own milk reduces the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a dangerous GI condition associated with significant morbidity and mortality (Lucas & Cole, 1990; Meinzen Derr et al., 2009). When mother’s milk is unavailable, pasteurized donor human milk protects against NEC (Quigley & McGuire, 2014; Sisk et al., 2017).

Human milk also reduces the risk of sepsis (Ronnestad et al., 2005) and decreases the number of healthcare visits after NICU discharge (Johnson et al., 2019). The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses the use of pasteurized donor human milk for preterm infants when mother’s milk is unavailable (AAP, 2017).

Donor Milk on the Mother Baby Unit

The use of donor milk on the mother baby unit is on the rise (Belfort et al., 2018). Indications for donor milk on the floor include, but are not limited to low supply, poor latch, hypoglycemia, weight loss, and hyperbilirubinemia (Sen et al., 2018). Belfort et al. (2018) have demonstrated that exclusive breastfeeding rates are higher at discharge when donor milk is available for supplementation. Establishing a donor milk program on the mother baby unit increases parental feeding choices and may improve patient satisfaction.

Donor Milk for Outpatients at Home

Donor milk may be used at home for a multitude of reasons, including short term supplementation in the newborn period, maternal illness or separation, adoption, surrogacy, or low milk supply. Some parents provide one bottle each day for a specific time period to provide a daily dose of antibodies and immune factors to complement baby’s other nutrition. Donor milk may be used in conjunction with mother’s milk or formula.

Pasteurized donor human milk may be required for infants who are diagnosed with severe formula intolerance and/or failure to thrive. Donor milk may also be ordered for NICU graduates and pediatric patients with severe reflux, GI diagnoses, cardiac conditions, kidney or liver disease, spinal muscular atrophy, or other congenital or acquired conditions. In Illinois, some insurance plans may cover donor milk with specific indications and coverage rules. For more information, please review our Insurance Coverage Fact Sheet.

Safety and Quality

Milk Bank WGL is accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, Illinois Department of Public Health, and Elk Grove Village Health Department. Our Food Safety Plan identifies potential biological, chemical, and physical hazards in each processing step. Certified Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals (PCQIs) identify the preventive controls, verifications, and validations to prevent the risk of hazard. Our Food Safety Plan is continuously revised to improve the safety and quality of the products we dispense.

Milk Bank WGL Safety at a Glance

  • Milk Donors undergo a rigorous screening protocol that includes blood testing for HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and syphilis.
  • Pasteurization destroys bacteria and viruses, including HIV and CMV.
  • Donor milk is tested for bacteria before and after pasteurization.
  • Donor milk is also tested for drugs of abuse, including THC, PCP, opiates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, and amphetamine.

Milk Bank WGL is passionate about protein. We batch milk by developmental stage to capture the highest levels of protein and antibodies for our tiniest and most vulnerable patients. High protein milk collected from preterm mothers is batched and processed separately for very low birthweight infants in level III/IV NICUs. For more information, please review our Product & Nutrition Education handout.

To receive our hospital toolkit or to learn more about establishing a donor milk program at your hospital, please contact our Education Coordinator, Nicole at nicole@milkbankwgl.org.

Click here to learn more about accessing donor milk for outpatients.

Questions?