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The Human Milk Foundation is proud that the Hearts Milk Bank can support families facing breastfeeding challenges by providing skilled support and access to screened donor milk donated by wonderful mums. Since September 2017, the HMB has supported over 100 families referred by healthcare professionals or self referred. As our charity has grown, we wanted to ensure that this novel service was underpinned by a process that ensured fairness and safety to this precious resource.

In May 2019, we established a panel of volunteer experts who met at the Human Milk Foundation’s headquarters to achieve a consensus on how access to donor milk should be prioritised. The panel is formed of neonatologists, paediatricians, parents (donors and recipients), lactation specialists, milk bank team members and psychiatrist/psychologists. Initially, the panel met every 6 months, and now meets yearly to review the operation of the charity over the that year and adjust guidelines going forward.

After discussion, donor milk was prioritised according to four parameters: infant vulnerability (hence NICU milk is always prioritised), maternal breastfeeding and psychological health, and milk bank supply/logistics. Sometimes these overlap, but they give the team a broad context to manage a finite resource, and the expectations of what is possible.

In terms of duration of donor milk supply, the Prioritisation Panel set the following guidance:

The key to these discussions were ensuring support to as many families as possible, being transparent in what is possible so that expectations can be managed from the outset, and a structure that is simple and fair for the team to follow.

A full list of the Prioritisation Panel members and their role is below:

It is our charity’s goal that in the future is to be able to make sure that every baby and mother who could benefit from this service will be able to. If you would like to support us in this goal, please contact us.