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Donor Milk Program

infant in crib

Our Donor Milk Program makes it possible for all qualifying Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) babies to receive human milk. We are proud to be able to provide this life-saving therapy to our smallest patients.

The Donor Milk Program: What You Need to Know

Why use donor milk?

Although breast milk from a baby’s mother is the healthiest milk, sometimes mothers cannot provide enough breast milk for their premature babies. If this happens, we urge the use of donor milk from a milk bank rather than giving formula. Donor milk is considered a better choice than formula because:

  • Human milk is digested well and feedings can be increased quickly
  • We can reduce the number of days that a baby receives IV nutrition
  • Human milk can protect babies against infections, especially in the gastrointestinal tract

How safe is donated milk?

The Donor Milk Program follows guidelines established by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, which regulates milk donation and banking. In order to ensure the safety of donated milk, potential donors must undergo rigorous medical tests, including blood tests for HIV and hepatitis, and pass strict lifestyle criteria before their milk is accepted.

Once donated milk is received at the milk bank, it undergoes a process called pasteurization which kills bacteria and viruses.

Why is breast milk so important?

A mother's breast milk is the preferred milk for all babies, especially the most premature. Although commercial infant formulas are designed to be close to breast milk, they lack some of the unique traits that breast milk has. 

Formula is digested more slowly than breast milk and may not be as well tolerated. In addition, breast milk contains antibodies from the mother to help protect babies from infection, something commercial formulas do not have. This protection is especially important when babies are sick or premature and may have higher chances of developing an infection.

Can I pump my own milk?

Even if your baby cannot breastfeed, you can pump your breast milk and it can be stored for tube or bottle feedings. Premature babies may need human milk fortifiers added to pumped breast milk to meet their increased needs for protein, calcium, phosphorus and other vitamins and minerals.

Lactation consultants (IBCLC) and lactation counselors (CLC) are nurses or other healthcare providers who are specially trained to help women with lactation. In our NICU, these professionals can help you learn to nurse your baby. They can also teach you about pumping and storing your breast milk for your baby.

Make a Donation

The Children's National NICU partners with The Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin to provide donor milk to our NICU patients. If you would like to donate excess milk, you can begin the registration process by calling the milk bank toll-free at 1-877-813-MILK to receive the information needed.

Contact Information

For more information, contact Mary Revenis, M.D., at 202-476-3396