Human milk banking began at the turn of the 20th century as the process of milk pasteurization became available and the use of wet nurses was no longer practical. The first human milk bank in the United States was founded in Boston in 1910. Many others followed necessitating the establishment of formal guidelines.
In 1985, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America opened to:
Currently, there are several human milk banks throughout the world with ten in the United States, including Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas (MMBNT).
Current research clearly indicates that breastmilk is the optimal feeding choice for all babies and provides complete nutrition and immunological protection. The benefits of breast milk are of particular value to the preterm infant.
Premature babies fed human milk are less likely to develop many complications of prematurity. Mothers of premature infants are often unable to provide their infants with their own breastmilk due to illness, premature delivery, medications or other complications.
When a mother’s own milk is not available, donor human milk that has been processed through a milk bank is the next best option.
Milk Processing Method
Milk is pasteurized using the Holder method of pasteurization.
A “pool” of milk is selected from three or more donors, to assure a homogenous nutrient content and greater variety of immune factors. Frozen donor milk is slow-thawed, pooled, aliquoted into 3 ounces glass bottles, then pasteurized at 62.5ºC for 30 minutes in a shaking water bath. A random sample is removed and sent to the lab for a culture. Pasteurized milk is quick-cooled in an ice slurry, and then frozen at –20ºC. Milk is dispensed if the culture results show no bacterial growth for 48 hours. Milk is marked with an expiration date 12 months after the earliest expression of milk in the pool. Milk is handled using “clean” technique prior to pasteurization, then pasteurized bottles are not opened until the recipient’s feeding is being prepared.