In light of the current baby formula shortage in the U.S., many nursing parents with an oversupply of breast milk are wondering: Can you donate breast milk? And for that matter, how and where can you donate breast milk?
Conversely, parents who are struggling to find formula for their babies are wondering how they can obtain donor breast milk.
Whatever situation you find yourself in, here’s everything you need to know about the breast milk donation system in the U.S. and Canada.
Can you donate breast milk?
If you have an oversupply of breast milk (basically, this means you are producing more breast milk than your baby needs), or if you are producing breast milk after sadly losing a baby, you can donate breast milk in the U.S., as long as you meet all the donation requirements by an accredited milk bank.
There are a total of 28 breast milk banks in the U.S. and three in Canada that are accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), an FDA-approved accreditation organization.
Where to donate breast milk in the U.S. and Canada:
If you are interested in donating breast milk, email or call your closest HMBANA milk bank, where the next step will be a phone interview. Then, you’ll have to pass a blood test from an approved lab (which the milk bank will pay for), and you may need to pass along further information from your doctor to make sure you are in good health to donate.
After these steps, if the milk bank approves you as a donor, you will be given further instructions on how to safely drop off or overnight ship your milk. All shipping costs will be covered by the milk bank.
Donating your excess breast milk is an incredible and selfless thing to do — especially now, with the formula shortage going on. HMBANA’s executive director told Bloomberg that requests for donor milk have gone up by about 20 percent since the formula shortage began, and that the amount of new breast milk donor applicants is rising, too.
To learn more about what the process is like, check out this video from YouTuber Lucie Fink, who spoke about her experience donating breast milk to premature and sick infants via the New York Milk Bank, an HMBANA-accredited organization.
How to apply for donor breast milk:
In the U.S. and Canada, you can also apply to receive donor milk via HMBANA-accredited milk banks, all of which is pasteurized, and comes from individuals who pass the milk bank’s screening process.
Similar to the above process of donating milk, you can seek a milk donation by contacting the HMBANA milk bank closest to where you live. Give the milk bank a call or send an email, and you will be contacted by a representative detailing the next steps to hopefully get you approved to receive donated milk.
The FDA recommends only accepting donor milk from people who have been adequately screened by an accredited organization such as the HMBANA. Although some individuals choose to donate breast milk directly to a parent in need in their community or via the internet, the FDA cautions against this, as you will not be able to ensure its safety.
If you have a friend or relative who is willing to donate breast milk for your baby, consider speaking with a physician to go over any potential risks before accepting any non-accredited breast milk donation.