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Supplement Your Breast Milk Supply by Using a Milk Bank

Updated on April 29, 2009

A hundred years ago, infants around the world were exclusively fed breast milk for the first year of life. At that point, when a mother was unable to give a child breast milk, other milks and substances were tried, most of the time resulting in the infant’s death.

This is when milk banks and wet nurses began providing the breast milk that was so vital to infants who needed it.  Eventually, milk formulas were developed (and are still considered a work in progress) that could sustain babies without breast milk, and over the past century, the public has gone from almost exclusively breastfeeding to increasing the use of formula.

The Rise of the Milk Bank

Now, we’ve returned to the concept that breast milk is indeed the most optimal food for infants. But will we really put our baby at another woman’s breast? Probably not. Today’s solution is the milk bank.

Milk banks are now becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. They’re used when a mother’s milk supply is inadequate or lacking, for illnesses like cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and Down’s syndrome or for premature infants who have feeding issues. They’re also useful when babies have intolerance to formula, or when the parents of a healthy adopted baby wish to provide it with breast milk. Also, a breastfeeding mother whose milk supply is low for whatever reason has the option of buying breast milk through a milk bank.

Over the last one hundred years, the interest in human milk has come almost full circle with the understanding that although artificial feeding products are continually improving, human milk provides factors not replicated in any other source of nutrition. In addition, provision of a safe source of donor milk, supports breastfeeding by clearly indicating that human milk cannot be replaced. In the twenty-first century, donor milk banking is once again blossoming.


Milk Bank Guarantee

At first, it might sound a bit odd to give your baby another woman’s milk, but if you compare it to feeding your baby a cow’s milk, then it might not sound so unnatural! Rest assured, like blood banks, milk banks have extensive screening tests for the milk they donate or sell.

Certified milk banks guarantee this and more:

  • State-of-the-art donor tracking systems
  • DNA fingerprinting
  • Testing for viruses like HIV1 And 2, HTLV 1 and hepatitis B and C
  • Donors must be recommended by a doctor and pediatrician to donate
  • The temperature of storage and delivery does not exceed appropriate levels.

There are many milk banks located throughout the United States. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that the milk bank you choose is certified and meets all of the requirements above and more.

Know that there has never been a documented case of disease through processed human milk. And relax! You’ll know that you’re making the best choice for your baby.

How to Become a Milk Bank Donor

Donating to milk banks is a great way to help babies and mothers. If you’re interested in becoming a donor, visit these sites:

For more information, see also:

Image Credit: Editor B, Flickr


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