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Who receives my donated breast milk?

Donated milk is received by critically ill and premature infants in the NICU, as well as being used for scientific research purposes.

Can I purchase breast milk from the National Milk Bank for my own baby?

No, we are not able to sell or distribute any of our donor's milk to the public. All milk collected is intended for premature and critically-ill babies who have a prescription for it.

How do I know if I'm a good candidate to donate breast milk?

Almost any nursing mother can become a breast milk donor. If you are healthy with a good medical history, you are a likely candidate. You will need to complete a medical questionnaire, get consent forms signed by your doctor and baby's doctor, have your blood and urine tested for drugs and diseases, all at no cost to you. Please review our Qualification Guidelines for more details.

Will you accept milk that was pumped prior to me contacting National Milk Bank?

Yes, in most cases we are able to accept any milk that has been properly stored and continuously frozen for up to 6 months.

Is there a minimum amount of donation?

Yes, our minimum amount for donation is 500 ounces. We ask that our donors collect this amount of milk prior to beginning our screening process so that we can make sure they have enough for at least one donation shipment.

How long does the screening process take to become a breast milk donor?

The entire screening process takes approximately 2-4 weeks. This time frame usually depends on how motivated the donor is to complete everything, and how quickly the Medical Confirmation forms, the freezer temperature reading, the blood testing and urine samples are completed. Please review our Screening Process to get a detailed idea of what is involved in becoming a donor. All costs for testing and shipping are covered and there is never any cost to the donor.

How do I prepare to express my milk for donation?

Because you are pumping for critically ill babies, it is very important to carefully wash your hands with hot, soapy water. The water temperature should be as hot as can be tolerated without burning the skin. If you shower daily, you do not need to wash your breasts before pumping. If you are not able to shower daily, wash your breasts once a day. Take extra time to thoroughly wash your hands because harmful bacteria can be transmitted from your hands to the pumped milk. Though not necessarily dangerous to full term babies, some of these bacteria are dangerous to critically ill infants in the NICU. Do not handle your pump or your collection containers until you have washed your hands. Wash your pump parts regularly and collect breast milk into a dry, clean container which has been scrubbed with hot soapy water and thoroughly rinsed. The use of a sponge for washing is not recommended unless the sponge is only used to wash your breast milk bottles and the sponge is allowed to dry between uses. If possible, after the bottles and pump parts have been washed, run them through the dishwasher to sanitize them. Breast massage sometimes helps the flow of milk. After massaging the breast, roll the nipple back and forth using your index finger and thumb. Stretch the nipple slightly. This will encourage the release of hormones that help the flow of milk. Also, see our Storage & Expression page.

How should I store my milk?

Ideally, we would like milk to be put in the freezer immediately after pumping. If this is not possible, we ask that you keep the milk in the refrigerator for no longer than 12 hours after expression before being put in the freezer. Containers should be stored separately from other foods in the freezer. Also, see our Storage & Expression page.

How do I send my breast milk donation?

After you have completed our screening process to become a qualified donor, we will send you all supplies necessary for shipping. This includes instructions, a shipping container, gel packs, and a prepaid return label. There will be complete instructions included in the shipping container on how to package everything up. Once you are ready to ship, you drop off at your local FedEx location for the last shipment of the day. Please ship on Monday or Tuesday of the week.

If I complete the screening process to donate through NMB, am I qualified to donate through any other milk bank, organization, etc.?

No, your qualification to donate through National Milk Bank does not qualify you to donate through any other milk bank or organization. We are a separate entity from any other milk banks in the United States, so if you are looking to donate through more than one milk bank, you would need to complete an entirely new screening process.

What if I start taking a new medication?

While some medications are safe to use for your own, healthy, little one, we usually have to remain ultra conservative, as all of our donor's milk is received by critically-ill and premature infants in the NICU. Please contact us if you need or decide to start taking any new medication, supplement, etc., whether it is prescribed or OTC. We will be able to let you know if it is permitted to use while donating.

What if I become ill?

If you or a member of your family are feeling under the weather, even if it is something as simple as the common cold, yeast infection, etc., please let us know. We will be able to tell you how to appropriately separate out any milk you may collect during that time, if necessary.

Can I drink alcohol while donating?

Yes, we are able to accept milk from donors consuming no more than two units of alcohol. One unit of alcohol for our purposes is classified as one glass of wine, one beer, or one shot of liquor.

Can I drink caffeinated beverages while donating?

Yes, we are able to accept milk from donors consuming no more than 24 ounces (or 300 mg) of a caffeinated beverage per day.

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