The Facts about Milk BankingWhat is a mothers' milk bank?
A mothers' milk bank collects, processes, tests and distributes donated human milk. Some milk banks are hospital-affiliated others are independent entities that serve the whole community. MMBNE is a non-profit independent milk bank operating under the guidelines of the Human Milk Bank Association of North America (HMBANA).
Why is banked milk better than specialized formulas?
Human milk is designed for human babies. Specialized formulas for premature babies are modified from cows' milk and are very harsh on the delicate digestive systems of premature newborns. For example, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is 10 -17% more likely if a preemie receives formula. NEC can lead to lifelong gastrointestinal problems, and is largely preventable by feeding babies human milk. View a comparison chart that shows the nutritional benefits of human milk versus formula.
Is milk banking safe?
Multiple steps are taken to make sure that banked milk is safe for the vulnerable babies it will feed. Screening of milk donors includes an interview regarding health behaviors, letters from mothers' and babies' physicians and blood tests to detect communicable diseases. Milk is heat-treated and must show no bacterial growth. Milk is shipped frozen overnight.
In more than 40 years of modern milk banking, there has never been a documented case of an infant being harmed by donor milk from an HMBANA milk bank.
How much does banked milk cost and who pays for it?
Donors are not paid for their milk. Milk banks pay for donor blood tests, processing and shipping of milk to the bank. Processing fees of about $4.50/oz for banked milk, plus shipping, help to cover those expenses. At this time, insurance companies in New England do not routinely cover banked milk. However, sometimes they will cover the milk on a case-by-case basis. Some hospitals are beginning to introduce donor milk as the standard of care for premature babies. Furthermore, MMBNE is working to establish a milk money fund that will insure donor milk is available to hospitalized ill or premature babies in need regardless of a family's ability to pay for milk.
Is it cost effective?
Yes! Research shows that NEC will increase a baby’s length of hospital stay by two weeks at an additional cost of $128,000 to $238,000. Donor Human Milk is a short-term therapy that gets a baby on the road to good health.
Won't availability of banked milk bring down breastfeeding rates?
Communities with milk banks have found that the availability of banked milk has contributed to an increase in breastfeeding rates. Milk banks increase awareness of the value of breastfeeding throughout the community. Mothers want to feed their babies themselves, using banked milk only to supplement what they cannot provide.
How can we get banked milk?
HMBANA guidelines require that banked milk be dispensed by physician prescription or by hospital purchase order only. Once the milk bank receives the order, it is shipped frozen overnight. For further information contact the Mothers' Milk Bank of New England.
MMBNE's new booklet, "Use of Pasteurized Donor Human Milk as NICU Standard of Care" provides hospitals with a template for establishing a NICU donor milk program, as well as samples of protocols for staff, education flyers and informed consent for parents.
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Fall 2012 Newsletter Available
See the Spring 2011 Newsletter.
Breast milk from donors is proving helpful in the Brigham’s neonatal ICU
Boston Globe article about donor milk.
MMBNE Executive Director on WBUR
A recent Radio Boston show featuring Executive Director Naomi Bar-Yam.
Milk Banks & Wet Nursing
An article from the Hartford Advocate.
A recent Newsweek article on milk banking.
Mothers' Milk Bank of New England
PO Box 60-0091 Newtonville, MA 02460
Office phone: 617-527-6263