Donating Breast Milk: The Greatest Gift
Donating breast milk can save a life!
Breast milk is full of antibodies and is considered the ideal food for babies. Although the milk of a baby’s own mother is the ideal, it may not always be available. Donor human milk is the next best choice. Donating your breast milk will help to ensure that premature or ill babies receive this life giving fluid.
Can I Donate Breast Milk?
If you are currently breastfeeding a baby under one year of age and have milk to spare, you could be eligible to be a donor.
Women who have given their baby up for adoption, have acted as a surrogate or have lost their baby can also be potential donors.
Where Do I Donate?
There are currently 4 breast milk banks in Canada. If you are lucky enough to live in one of these cities, contact the milk bank directly to arrange for donation:
- B.C Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia
- Roger Hixon Milk Bank in Toronto, Ontario
- Northern Star Mothers Milk Bank in Calgary, Alberta
- Public Mothers’ Milk Bank in Quebec
Canada also has 7 milk drops. A milk drop collects milk from approved donors for shipping to the nearest milk bank. There are milk drops in the following Canadian cities:
- Edmonton, Alberta (Grey Nuns Milk Drop)
- Medicine Hat, Alberta
- Lethbridge, Alberta
- Regina, Saskatchewan
- Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
- Yorkton, Saskatchewan
- Winnipeg, Manitoba
If you are interested in donating breast milk, you must first contact the closest milk bank to arrange for their screening process.
If you live outside of Canada, click here to find the milk bank closest to you.
What kind of screening is required for donating breast milk?
Milk bank staff will ask you a series of questions about your medical and lifestyle history. You will then need to see your healthcare provider to complete paperwork and arrange for a blood test.
Collection and Storage of Donor Breast Milk
Donor moms are asked to donate a minimum of at least 4,500 ml (150 ounces). Collect and freeze your extra breast milk in a sterilized hard plastic (food-grade) container or in milk storage bags. Storage containers are available free of charge from the nearest milk bank or milk drop.
Click here for more information on pumping your breast milk.
Is Donor Human Milk Safe?
Breast milk can contain bacteria or viruses. To ensure donated milk’s safety, it is pasteurized according to very strict guidelines set out by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). This treatment has very little effect on the nutritional and health benefits of the milk.
After the heating process, tests are done to ensure the milk is germ-free. It is then frozen to -20 C (-4 F).
Since the guidelines of HMBANA have been followed, there has never been a report of pasteurized breast milk from a milk bank causing disease or harm to a baby.
If you are able, please consider donating breast milk. It is the greatest gift you can give!
About the authors:
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.