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Screening Breastmilk Donors

Opinions on donor screening vary from family to family. It is important to acknowledge that certain diseases, including potentially fatal diseases such as HIV, can be transmitted through breastmilk. While milk donors may appear to lead extremely healthy lives, certain precautions should be taken to protect the child receiving donor milk. There are few laws surrounding milk donation, though in California for example, there is a law barring the sale of human milk. Given that private milk donation in general is not a regulated practice, most recipient families are choosing to follow the lead of milk banks by using the same screening and pasteurization process. Pasteurizing, in addition to bloodwork, milk does minimize risk of transmitting any disease, though pastuerization does also destroy certain beneficial live components of the milk. Please discuss milk donation with a supportive care provider and get their input regarding the appropriate precautions that should be exercised at a minimum. These precautions may include:
  • Having every milk donor screened for HIV 1&2, Hepatitis B&C, Syphillis, and HTLV 1&2 (same blood screening as milk banks)- Bloodwork should be as current as possible
  • Obtaining a completed donor agreement (sample provided) that documents past health history (questions should be based on what milk banks request of their donors) and that informs the donor of the risks of passing certain diseases through breastmilk
  • Pasteurizing milk using a home pasteurizer
  • Discussing proper hygiene with milk donors
  • Discussing lifestyle with milk donors; get to know each donor through multiple contacts
  • Receiving a letter from the donor mother's doctor stating that milk donation poses no risk to her child and that she appears to be in good health.
  • Rejecting milk from donors that do not meet 100% of milk bank criteria, including mothers that are on medications passed through breastmilk (discuss with your care provider, as milk banks may be more stringent than is necessary), mothers unwilling to be blood tested, mothers that can not provide complete health history, or mothers that have an unhealthy lifestyle in any way.