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Mothers' Milk Bank FAQs

Published on: 11/14/2012 8:05 PM



​Donors are critical to the success of the Mothers' Milk Bank. Without donors to provide a safe and continuous supply of milk, infants and children who need processed human milk would be deprived of access to this valuable resource.

Donors may choose to express and freeze the milk for a period of several weeks in order to donate a sufficient quantity of milk (approximately 100 ounces of milk or more). If a mother has stored frozen expressed milk that is less than 5 months old in the freezer, she can still donate that milk as long as the milk has been kept frozen.
Note: Repeat donors are treated as new donors with each pregnancy.
Preliminary Donor Screening
The following suggested questions of donor history may require further discussion with the Mothers’ Milk Bank staff.
  • Have a history of chronic infections (for example, HIV, HTLV, active TB, hepatitis or herpes or other chronic health condition, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer or cervical cancer in situ)
  • In the past 12 months have had a sexual partner who is at high risk for HIV/AIDS, HTLV, or hepatitis (including anyone with hemophilia, anyone who has used a needle for the injection of illegal or non-prescription drugs, or anyone who has multiple sexual partners)
  • In the past 12 months had a sexual partner who has had tattoos, permanent makeup applied with needles, ear or other body parts pierced, or been accidentally stuck with a contaminated needle
  • Have been told they cannot give blood for a medical reason, unless the reason was low body weight, pregnancy, or breastfeeding
  • In the last 12 months have received a blood transfusion, blood products, an organ or tissue transplant, ear or body part piercing, tattooing, permanent make-up applied with needles, or an accidental stick with a contaminated needle
  • Had a blood transfusion given to the baby during pregnancy
  • Have ever had hepatitis or yellow jaundice or in the last 12 months had close contact with someone with viral hepatitis or yellow jaundice (cohabitation or sexual contact)
  • Within the past 12 months been exposed to hepatitis B or received a gamma globulin shot
  • Have ever had acupuncture or electrolysis with non sterile needles
  • Have ever received human pituitary-derived growth hormone, a dura mater or brain covering graft, or had intimate contact with some who has Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  • Use tobacco products, nicotine patch, nicotine gum, or regularly use more than 2 ounces of hard liquor or its equivalent within a 24 hour period
  • Use illegal drugs
  • Been born, lived in, or traveled in, any African country since 1977
  • within the last 12 months have lived in the Caribbean, the far eat, or Japan
  • Between 1980 and 1996 lived in the UK (England, North Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar, or the Falkland Islands) for more than three months, or have ever received a blood transfusion in the UK
  • Since 1980 spent time that adds up to a total of 5 years in Europe
  • Have ever injected drugs, or had a intimate relationship with someone who has injected drugs
  • Regularly use over-the-counter medications or prescription medications (thyroid replacement hormones, insulin, nasal sprays, topical treatments, eye drops, vitamins, iron supplements, and progestin-only birth control pills are acceptable)
  • Are taking pharmacologically active herbal or preparations, vitamins containing herbal supplements, or taking mega doses of any vitamins
  • Consume more than 24oz of caffeinated drinks per day, or regularly consume alcohol (there is a 12 hour waiting period after consuming alcohol before pumping for the bank)
  • Have ever tested positive for tuberculosis (we need to discuss the circumstances)
  • Are total vegetarians (vegans) and do not supplement their diets with vitamins
Donor Screening Procedures:
  1. If you meet the qualifications of the preliminary donor screening process, call the Mothers' Milk Bank for a brief verbal medical history review and more information on how to donate at (408) 998-4550.
  2. Fill out donor information forms, consent forms, physician approval forms, and information sheets.
  3. Consent to a blood test. Donors are tested serologically every six months. The Mothers' Milk Bank covers the cost of the serological screening.

The staff of the Mothers' Milk Bank will contact her when her first shipment is approved. If the donor can deliver the frozen milk to our facility during business hours, we greatly appreciate the effort. 

The donor may also transport her milk to one of the many depots in California.
If none of these methods are available, MMB will ship coolers and airbills to the donor's residence when milk is ready to transport. Instructions on shipping and packing frozen milk will be included in the cooler.
The frozen milk will be accepted Monday through Friday only. Do not ship milk for a Saturday or Sunday pick-up. The Mothers' Milk Bank is closed for weekends and holidays.
The frozen milk must not be older than 4 months in a regular home freezer or 6 months in a deep freeze.
Any additional donations from an approved donor will be greatly appreciated. To request a cooler, call (408) 998-4550. It will take 2-3 days for the cooler to arrive.
No. All donors to the Mothers' Milk Bank are volunteers
Yes. The milk is frozen after the pasteurization procedure. All donors are blood tested and the milk is tested for bacterial counts.
The Mothers' Milk Bank provides milk to patients who have a physician's prescription (MD or DO). The prescription must indicate how many ounces of processed milk per day, and for how many weeks or months. We also need the patient's name, address and phone number with the prescription. The information can be faxed to us at (408)297-9208.
We cannot guarantee that the milk will be available the day the prescription comes in. Please take into consideration that our sick and premature infants are our main priority.
It is the families responsibility to pick-up the frozen milk from the Mothers' Milk Bank. If this is not an option, The Mothers' Milk Bank uses priority overnight shipment. There will be a charge for the shipping and handling.

​A physician's prescription can be mailed or faxed to the Mothers' Milk Bank at (408) 297-9208. Information such as name, phone number and address must accompany the prescription. Once we receive the prescription, it takes two working days for shipping and handling.

Processed milk can be shipped priority overnight mail. There will be shipping charges to the recipient's family. The charge for shipping depends on the area shipped to and the weight of the package.
If you have a FedEx, UPS, or Postal Service account number, MMB will bill directly to your account.
We prefer not to ship milk out on Fridays unless it is an emergency. The hospital shipping/loading dock is closed.

All the donor human milk supplied to you has been pasteurized or heat treated and then frozen. Place all the donor human milk in the freezer for further storage. The bottles should be placed in the rear of the freezer, away from the freezer door. The freezer door is not an appropriate place for storage since the temperature changes when the door is opened. On each bottle is an expiration date, which is usually six months from the time the donor human milk has been treated.

A freezer that keeps ice cream hard is appropriate for storing donor human milk. In the hospital, the freezer should register -20° C (-4°F).
Donor human milk can be thawed quickly in a container of warm water (not to exceed 37°C/98°F). The water must cover the level of the donor human milk but not touch the lid. Water can seep into the bottle and contaminate the donor human milk if the lid is exposed to the warm water.
The optimal method of defrosting donor human milk is to place the frozen bottle in the refrigerator for an overnight slow thaw. The donor human milk should be used by the next 24 hours.
Do not microwave any human milk.

​There is a processing fee of $3.00 per ounce. There may also be shipping charges involved.
Most insurance companies will cover the cost of banked milk if it is medically necessary. To find out if your insurance will cover the cost of the milk, call your provider.