Donating Breast Milk to Milk Banks: What You Should Know

While many intended parents welcome the idea of receiving breast milk from their surrogate, this arrangement is not ideal for everyone. Some parents won’t want to receive milk from their surrogate for a variety of reasons and sometimes supplying the milk or getting it to the parents is logistically impossible.

We find that many surrogates may still wish to express their breast milk with the goal of helping other families in need. In addition to helping other families, donating breast milk can provide a financial boost to a surrogate in the months following the conclusion of her surrogacy journey. For these reasons, many surrogates choose to donate to milk banks. Milk banks generally appreciate surrogate applicants to their programs because they know surrogates come from a giving, responsible, and mature person. Here’s a very brief overview of what you can expect if you are considering donating breast milk to a milk bank.

More Screening

Just as with the surrogacy experience, getting started with a milk bank often means another intensive screening process. Most start with an application and/or phone conversation with their admissions or enrollment team. You will be asked about your pregnancy, medical health, and any medications that you’re taking. It’s important to answer these questions honestly.

They Cover the Costs

You’ll need to undergo blood testing before you’re approved to donate to most milk banks, and the milk bank will cover this cost. Then, if you’re approved to join a milk bank donation program, the milk bank will likely cover your related costs in addition to any potential payment that is given. Most milk banks will send or reimburse you for collection bags, a breast pump, and pumping accessories. Once you’ve collected enough milk to donate, the milk banks generally cover the cost of the shipping materials and postage for getting the milk to them.

Expect to be Meticulous

Because the majority of milk banks supply milk to premature babies or those with other significant health issues, they have to be very meticulous about the milk they accept. This means that you will be responsible for steam sterilizing all of your accessories before and after every pumping session. You’ll need to keep detailed and exact logs of your output, measure the milk in each collection bag closely, and ensure that the bags are frozen correctly. This generally means learning to freeze milk flat and keep it in a freezer that reaches very specific temperatures. While protocol can differ from milk bank to milk bank, you can expect to pay close attention to your pumping life.

Expect to Donate A Lot

While output varies greatly between women, most milk banks will ask you to commit to donating a specific amount of milk before leaving their program. This time frame can vary between milk banks but tends to average between 100 and 200 ounces.

Eligibility

You may not be eligible to donate if your blood tests results reveal certain medical conditions, tobacco use, drug use, or other pathogens. Additionally, women who traveled to the United Kingdom from 1980-1996 are sometimes ruled out. Candidates are also generally asked to be in good health and not on regular medications.

Ready to get started? While this is not an exhaustive list, here are a few well established, reputable milk banks that can help answer any additional questions that you may have.

Prolacta

The Milk Bank

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.