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Worthy Cause - Mothers' Milk Bank

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Mothers' Milk Bank (MMB) is a non-profit program of Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation whose mission is 'to improve the quality of life for families, sick children and infants throughout our communities by providing support when and how they need it most.'

MMB collects, tests, processes, and dispenses donated human milk to babies across the United States.

About Mothers' Milk Bank

Serving over 158 hospitals, and with a total of 79 milk Donation and Outreach Centers in 24 states, Mothers' Milk Bank is the largest milk bank in the country (by volume of milk dispensed).

Mothers' Milk Bank primarily serves areas that either don’t have a local milk bank, or whose local milk bank isn't able meet the needs of the community. All donated milk is thoroughly tested (including for drug of abuse), tested, analyzed and processed. All milk is frozen, shipped, or dropped off with a designated person at milk DOCs.

Mothers' Milk Bank is a member of also a member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), and they adhere to their strict guidelines.

Started in May of 1984, they celebrate 35 years of providing access to safe breast milk to babies this year! The Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation (RMCHF) was established as the parent organization for Mothers’ Milk Bank in 2004.

"Babies in need are so vulnerable, so fragile… and donating to [Mothers' Milk Bank] can help prevent infections and truly save their lives."
~ Laraine Lockhart Borman, Director of Outreach, Mothers' Milk Bank

Breast Milk Donation Process

All donors must be medically screened, and the questions asked are similar to blood and other donations. They also include:

  • Lifestyle questions like returning to work or school

  • Amount of milk already collected

  • Previous experience with breastfeeding

Donors can submit an interest form online or call, and then they are confirmed by a physician.

Donors are not paid in any way for their services, but likewise they do not pay for the blood tests required to donate milk. They prefer to acquire around 150 oz of milk per donor, but some women have donated thousands of ounces. The amount of times a woman donates varies from once to many times over the course of many months

Interview with Laraine Lockhart Borman

Laraine Lockhart Borman, IBCLC is the Director of Outreach for Mothers' Milk Bank, and she has been with the organization since its inception. We spoke to her recently to find out more about this worthy cause!

Why is donating milk so important?

Laraine: The health benefits received from using human milk (breast milk) for newborns, especially premature newborns, cannot be replicated by any commercial formula product. Donations to and receiving milk from a nonprofit milk bank guarantees that the milk will be safe, unaltered, and provided to the babies who need it most.

Are you impacted negatively by banks who pay their donors for milk?

Laraine: Considering HMBANA banks have increased the number of ounces of milk dispensed by 12% (to 6.3 million oz of milk), I would say no. We don’t think that it is ethical to pay for milk, because it requires charging patients who are most in need. This is not only unethical, but it is a difficult business model to uphold. At Mothers' Milk Bank, we believe in full transparency, so there can be no question of whether women are being taken advantage of by introducing a for-profit element to the milk donation process.

Recipient families, parents and grandparents, they appreciate the milk and the donors so much. That’s why we at Mother’s Milk bank call the donors ‘angels’.
~ Laraine Lockhart Borman, Director of Outreach, Mothers' Milk Bank

Do you have to spend a lot of time dealing with insurance companies?

Laraine: No, because about 90% of the donated milk goes to hospitals who pay the processing fee outright. The remaining 10% goes to healthy-term infants who need the milk as a bridge to breastfeeding until mom's milk is available. We do not charge patients for the milk, so it never goes to insurance. Insurance doesn’t pay under those conditions unless the child has severe health problems with a demonstrated medical need.

What are the donor eligibility requirements?

Laraine: We have comprehensive guidelines for milk donation, and in order to donate mothers must meet the following criteria:

  • Be confident in her milk supply and produce milk in excess of her own baby’s needs.

  • Be willing to donate a minimum total of 150 ounces throughout her time as a donor with us.

  • Not be taking vitamin supplements that exceed 2000% Daily Value (DV).

  • Take only approved medications and herbal supplements/teas. Mothers’ Milk Tea, fenugreek, and any lactation support product containing fenugreek or other herbs is NOT compatible with donating.

  • Not have any medical condition that prohibits her from giving blood (there are exceptions to this rule – please contact us if this applies to you).

  • Consume less than 450 mg of caffeine per day (2-3 cups of coffee).

  • Wait 6 hours after drinking any alcoholic beverage to collect milk to donate.

  • Be motivated to practice exceptional hygiene and carry out careful milk collection and storage methods.

  • Be willing to undergo blood testing.

  • Be less than 18 months postpartum when collecting the milk.

How You Can Help

Mothers’ Milk Bank’s donors are women who produce milk in excess of their own babies’ needs and who complete the screening process. Babies who receive the milk may be premature or have severe illnesses and need human milk to thrive.

"You can make a bigger impact by donating your milk to a non-profit milk bank. Donating milk can save lives."
Laraine Lockhart Borman, Director of Outreach, Mothers' Milk Bank

Every ounce counts. One ounce of the precious gift of milk can feed a micro preemie for an entire day. With thousands of babies needing life-saving milk every week, they are always in need of more milk donors.

To learn more about the donation process, watch this video on their website.

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