Many lucky exclusive pumpers find that they have oversupply and that they are able to build up quite a freezer stash. However, at some point the freezer gets crammed full of milk and there is no room for essentials like frozen pizza and ice cream.
One option if you are in this situation is to donate your milk to a milk bank. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America is an association that provides standards and guidelines for its twelve member milk banks in the U.S. and Canada. If you are interested in donating milk, you can locate the one nearest to you here and determine if you meet their eligibility guidelines for donation.
Why donate to a milk bank?
One benefit to donating your milk to a milk bank is that your milk will be going to babies that really need human milk (premature babies, babies with formula intolerances, etc.) whose mothers are not able to provide it for them. Another benefit is that you have the reassurance that your milk with be pasteurized and safe for the babies that need it to drink.
One caveat, though, is that there are can be quite a few restrictions on who is eligible to donate. The restrictions vary by bank, so depending on the issue you may be eligible at one back and not eligible at another.
Some basic eligibility requirements that apply at most banks include:
- You must take a blood screening and not test positive for HIV, HTLV, Hepatitis B/C, or Syphilis
- You must have delivered a baby within the past twelve months. (UPDATE: Some milk banks are now accepting milk up until your baby’s second birthday.)
- You must not use illegal drugs.
- You cannot be taking most prescription medications (including some antidepressants).
- You cannot use nicotine products.
Most banks do not have issues with low to moderate caffeine or alcohol intake, though they may ask you not to pump for donation purposes for 12 hours after drinking either of these.
An example of one milk bank’s eligibility requirements is available here.
If you are donating just an existing freezer stash and are not going to be an ongoing donor, most milk banks will have a minimum number of ounces (usually 100-150) that they want you to donate in order to make it worth their while to screen you. This usually does not apply to grieving mothers whose babies have died.
Once it has been established that you are eligible to donate at the milk bank you’ve selected, the bank will go over their donation procedure. If you live close enough to drop the milk off or have it picked up, that is the best option. Otherwise the milk bank will arrange for safe shipping of the milk using dry ice.
Donating your milk is a fabulous thing to do if you are an exclusive pumper with oversupply, are not taking medications, and are motivated enough to take care of the blood testing that is required and transportation of your milk. I looked into it when my son was about four months old, but then I decided to take a medication for post-partum anxiety and so was not eligible. I was sad that I wasn’t able to donate, but if this is an option for you, I hope you look into it!