Frequently Asked Questions

January 2020 – we will be adding to this page over the next few weeks. If you have any questions you would like answered please get in touch we would love to hear from you.

Why doesn’t the Northwest Human Milk Bank support informal milk sharing?

Donor milk from a milk bank has been through the following steps:

  1. Prior to donation each donor is
    1. Thoroughly screened by trained milk bank staff (lifestyle, medical history, medication etc)
    2. Tested for infectious diseases including HIV, hepatitis, syphilis and HTLV
    3. Trained on safe milk hygiene and storage practices
  2. At each donation
    1. Screening repeated by trained milk bank staff to ensure nothing has changed (lifestyle, medical history, medication etc) – milk may no longer be accepted if donor no longer meets guidelines for example has started taking medication
    2. Milk bank staff check donor’s freezer temperature log
    3. Milk safely transported in dedicated clean cool boxes that are regularly temperature checked
    4. Each bottle of milk thoroughly checked when received at milk bank and cross referenced with screening information – individual bottles may be discarded if out of date, labelled incorrectly, damaged or from a date when donor was taking medication
  3. Milk bank storage, processing and testing
    1. Freezer temperatures are monitored 24 hours per day and staff alerted by text message if any fluctuation
    2. Each batch is rechecked for medication before defrosting in a refrigerator
    3. Sample sent to microbiology lab for testing – any milk with high levels of bacteria is discarded as unsafe to use, this is on average 10% of all milk processed
    4. Milk is pasteurised to destroy any pathogens and sample sent to microbiology lab to ensure pasteurisation has been successful
    5. Donor screening, processing and lab results checked and signed prior to milk being issued
    6. Guidelines are sent to receiving hospitals and families on how to handle donor milk safely

As you can see from this, even if a donor mum has passed the initial screen at a milk bank this does not mean that her milk is safe to use and this is why we don’t advocate informal milk sharing.