Accessing donor milk

Our goal is to make sure that all babies can have access to donor milk, and that more choices are available for families facing feeding challenges. As well as supporting over 50 neonatal intensive care units, the Hearts Milk Bank supports families in the community with donor milk where breastfeeding is not possible, alongside specialist lactation support where breastfeeding is taking time to establish.

Supporting you and your family

Any family accessing donor milk from the HMF will need the support and oversight of a healthcare professional. This is to make sure that, where applicable the parent’s own lactation is being supported, and their health and the health of the baby is protected. Healthcare professionals could include a GP, paediatrician, community midwife, health visitor, dietitian, or IBCLC (International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant).

If breastfeeding is impossible, for example because of previous mastectomies, cancer treatments or medication use that is contraindicated in lactation, then contacting us early during pregnancy or as soon as possible helps to make sure that you have a plan that you are happy with, and the donor milk is there when you need it.

If you would like to discuss access to donor milk please contact us or talk to your healthcare team.

The HMB is a charity and does not accept payment directly from parents. However, we are so grateful when supporters fundraise for us to make help possible for even more families. If you’d like to support the charity you can find out more here.

Accessing donor milk to support breastfeeding

  • Make sure the baby is well – check with your infant feeding support, midwives or doctors to make sure your baby is producing wet and dirty nappies appropriately for their age. Are they alert and feeding regularly? If not, please seek medical help immediately.
  • Have you been supported by a lactation consultant, breastfeeding counsellor or peer supporter? We recommend contacting your local IBCLC – details can be found on the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain (LCGB) website and you can also find help through the Breastfeeding Network, Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, and La Leche League.
  • The lactation support team at Hearts will also guide you through the use of donor milk, and work with you to make sure you’re getting all the help you need.
  • Donor milk use should be recorded using the tracking sheets provided by the milk bank.
  • The milk bank team can talk through any questions you might have by calling 01442 505 020 / 01442 505 021.

Where does donor milk come from?

All donor milk provided by the Hearts Milk Bank is breast milk that has been freely donated by mothers who have milk which is surplus to their own baby’s needs. The nutritional and immunological components of donor milk will vary according to the donor, the age of her baby, how and when she expressed and how long it has been stored. All of our milk donors are recruited in the UK and are registered with NHS healthcare providers. They undertake extensive health screening, including blood tests. All donor milk is tested by microbiology and pasteurised at the Hearts Milk Bank, which is necessary to ensure harmful viruses and bacteria are destroyed, in accordance with the NICE Clinical Guideline 93.

Yulia’s story

Yulia was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma one month before giving birth. She was told she wouldn’t be able to breastfeed during chemotherapy so contacted the Hearts Milk Bank to access donor milk.