Purchasing Breastmilk from Milk Banks: What You Should Know

Quite often our surrogates are willing and able to express breast milk for your new child. When this happens, it can be a beautiful thing for everyone involved. However, pumping breastmilk can be physically and emotionally demanding, and sometimes a woman is ready to get back to her normal life without the added obligations of expressing breastmilk. In the instance that your surrogate doesn’t desire to express breastmilk, please first understand that this is not meant as a personal attack. She’s likely not upset with you, and this has nothing to do with her willingness to help you.

If you still desire breastmilk despite being unable to obtain it from your surrogate there may be other resources available to you. Of course, there is the online classifieds option, but for the same reasons we recommend working with an agency for surrogacy, we recommend working with a reputable milk bank for procuring human breastmilk.

Milk banks screen applicants and order blood tests to ensure that they’re very healthy. Many women who donate to milk banks are mothers who have children who have weaned, women who produce more milk than their child desires, and surrogates. In addition, milk banks hold their donors to high standards to ensure that the milk you will eventually receive is bacteria and contaminant free. Employees regularly check milk for any trace of medications or other substances and will refuse the milk if it is found to be tainted. The milk will also be checked for proper freezing, shipping, and nutritional values.

The process for obtaining breastmilk will vary between milk banks, but generally includes pasteurization in a sterile room, nutrient testing, rebottling and labeling based on fat, protein, and lactose in each milk sample, and bacterial testing.

In many cases, donor breastmilk is dispensed by doctor’s orders only and is typically prioritized based on need. Premature babies are generally considered the highest need patients. Other reasons that can constitute the need for breastmilk include:

  • Failure to thrive
  • Malabsorption syndromes
  • Shirt gut syndrome
  • Pre/post-operative infants

If you want to learn more about milk banking, a great place to start is at The Human Milk Banking Association of North America. On their site, you will find more information about the health effects of breastmilk for infants, as well as help with locating a milk bank that may be local to where you live.

Another well-respected agency is Prolacta. They offer a thriving donor program for surrogates who are not able to provide milk to their own surrogate babies and have strict protocol guidelines that have led to earning praise in the human milk community.

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 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 book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019) as well as the children's book You Began as a Wish (Independent Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. She has two adult daughters.