Receive Milk

Premature baby in NICU incubator

When mother’s own milk is not available or is limited, pasteurized human donor milk is recommended for very low birth weight babies or babies who are recovering from gastrointestinal surgeries. While in-hospital, pasteurized human donor milk may be available as a temporary supplement until your baby’s feeds are established, or your breastmilk is sufficient.

  1. What is Donor Milk?
  2. Benefits of Donor Milk
  3. Criteria to receive donor milk
  4. Safety and Regulation

What is Donor Milk?

  • Donor milk is milk from another mother who has generously donated her milk for a baby whose mother does not have a full supply of her own milk
  • Donor mothers must pass through an extensive screening process similar to donating blood including an interview and blood tests
  • Donor mothers are never paid for their donation and must not smoke, drink alcohol or take prescription medication or street drugs
  • Once a mother is approved as a donor, she sends her milk donation to the milk bank where it is heat treated (pasteurized) similar to dairy milk
  • Donor milk is only released from the milk bank after it has been tested and found negative for bacteria after the heat treatment
  • The pasteurized milk from up to 4 mothers is combined together (pooled) to create donor milk with a more balanced nutritional value
  • The milk bank retains records to trace all pooled milk back to the donors

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Benefits of donor milk

  • Provides for optimum growth and development of babies
  • Protects against many types of infections including meningitis, ear infections and gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
  • Protects against sudden infant death syndrome
  • Easier to digest and better tolerated than formula
  • Coats and protects the digestive system and decreases the rate of sepsis (blood infection) and necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious bowel condition that preterm babies are predisposed to

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Criteria to receive donor milk

  • Medically fragile hospitalized babies who are very low birth weight babies
  • Babies who receive donor milk may do so for up to 4 weeks while in hospital and if there is not enough mother’s milk at this time, they will need to transition to a baby formula
  • In the event that donor milk supplies are limited, the highest risk babies will receive donor milk
  • Donor milk can only be provided by prescription following signed consent from a parent or guardian
  • There are no direct costs to the baby’s family for the donor milk

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Safety and Regulation

  • Donor milk processing follows guidelines set out by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America
  • Health Canada, Canada’s Food Inspection Agency and Toronto Public Health have oversight of The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank.
  • To date, there have been no published reports of infectious diseases being caused by properly pasteurized human donor milk. The risk of infection, however slight, cannot be reduced to zero just as is the case with the use of blood products
  • Click here for more information about the Safety Process

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