Milk donors are always in high demand. According to Best Practice for Expressing, Storing, and Handling Human Milk, 20191, less than 1% of possible donors apply to donate to not-for-profit milk banks, like the Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa.

By donating your surplus milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa, you are helping other babies (many who are vulnerable, fragile, sick, born prematurely), satisfying their hunger, and helping provide the nutrition they need to survive. 

In 2019, 89% of the milk donated to the Iowa milk bank was dispnesed to 56 hospitals in 12 states. Your donation is valuable beyond words and vital to the health and well-being of babies across the nation.

Becoming a milk donor

Talk to your care team early if you are interested in donating excess breast milk, as the screening process is started soon after your baby is born. Costs for the screening are paid by the milk bank; donors receive no compensation. Donors are asked to commit to donating a minimum of 200 ounces of milk through the duration of lactation (Note: There is no minimum for bereaved donors). Frequency of shipments is up to the donors – you decide when and how often you’d like to ship milk to the milk bank. Any surplus milk stored during the first few weeks of lactation should be saved for your baby. 

Preparing to donate your milk

Clean milk collection is essential, as milk with lower levels of bacteria retain higher protein levels during storage. Wash your hands before pumping and thoroughly clean the pump parts after each use to prevent the formation of bacteria. Rinse the pump pieces that touch the milk with warm water, wash in a clean bowl containing hot soapy water (or hold the parts with clean hands, don’t place in the sink), and rinse well with hot water after each use. We cannot accept milk that has been pumped with soiled pump parts that were stored in the refrigerator between pumpings. 

Milk from each pumping should be promptly frozen; if your milk has been refrigerated for more than 24-72 hours, please consult with milk bank staff before shipping. Milk pumped throughout the same day and then combined is acceptable if it’s been chilled separately after each pumping. 

Milk is stored frozen. Milk that has already been frozen and stored in breast milk storage bags or containers for up to 7-9 months can be donated by qualifying donors. Please consult with milk bank staff if milk has been stored longer than 7-9 months. Milk collection and storage containers are provided by the milk bank.

There are some situations in which the milk bank cannot accept milk.

  • The milk bank cannot accept freshly pumped milk that has been added to chilled milk, or milk that has been heat-treated in any way.
  • If you consume alcohol, please wait at least 12 hours before donating milk.
  • If you are/have been on certain medication you will be temporarily or permanently deferred; please check with the milk bank. Some medications – including multivitamins, iron, human insulin, thyroid replacement hormones, Zoloft, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, nasal sprays, asthma inhalers, topical treatments, eye drops, progestin-only and low-dose estrogen birth control products, among others – will not result in a deferral. 
  • Multivitamin/herb combinations, herbal teas, herbal supplements are exclusions. Herbal products are not tested and regulated, so their safety is unknown. 

There are three steps to becoming a milk donor: 

  • Verbal interview
  • Written questionnaire including forms for health care providers
  • Blood testing for HIV, hepatitis B and C, HTLV, and syphilis. The milk bank will send you a blood kit for you to take to a local lab to have your blood drawn. It is then sent to the Memorial Blood Center, where the blood will be analyzed and the results sent to the milk bank. We will contact you regarding the results. 

If you feel you qualify and are interested in being a donor, contact Heidi Baudhuin (heidi-baudhuin@uiowa.edu) to schedule a verbal screening. The interview will take approximately 15 minutes. 

1Jones, F. Best Practice for Expressing, Storing, and Handling Human Milk. 4th ed. HMBANA, 2019.