milk banking
History of Milk Banking

The demand for donor milk has skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to research touting its benefits and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommending it for all premature infants without access to their mother’s own milk. Because of this, milk banking in North America continues to grow and more nonprofit milk banks are being established under the guidance of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA)

HMBANA was established in 1985. Its mission is to advance the field of nonprofit milk banking through member accreditation, development of evidence-based practices and advocacy of breastfeeding and human lactation to ensure an ethically sourced and equitably distributed supply of donor human milk. There are currently 27 member milk banks, following guidelines set by the association and working together to provide donor milk for fragile and premature infants across the United States and Canada.

History of Milk Banking

Modern-day milk banking stems from wet nursing, the practice of a lactating woman nursing a child other than her own. Wet nursing dates back to at least 2000 B.C. and is described in many ancient texts.

Human milk banking itself began in 1909, when the world’s first milk bank opened in Vienna, Austria. The first North American milk bank opened a few years later in 1919 in Boston. This continued until the 1980s, when many feared transmission of HIV through breastmilk, and almost every milk bank in North America closed. With research assuring the safety of pasteurized donor human milk and the establishment of HMBANA in 1985, milk banking became stronger than ever. 

Today, thousands of fragile infants across the United States and Canada receive life-saving donor human milk each year.

Milk Processing

1. Milk arrives at MMBNT frozen from approved donors, where it is logged into a database and stored in monitored freezers until processing.
2. Milk is carefully thawed in the lab.
3. Milk from several donors is analyzed and combined to optimize nutrition for fragile infants.
4. Milk is poured into bottles and secured with tamper-resistant lids.
5. Each bottle is labeled with a barcode that contains nutritional information, batch number and expiration date, and is compatible with hospital logging and tracking systems.
6. Milk is pasteurized using the Holder method, which gently eliminates potentially harmful bacteria while preserving immunological properties and nutritional composition.
7. After pasteurization, a lab culture is completed to ensure each processed batch is free from bacteria.
8. Bottles are quickly frozen and held at a consistent temperature until requested by a hospital or healthcare professional.
9. Frozen bottles are packed in insulated boxes with great attention to safety and temperature control.
10. Frozen bottles are transported by courier to local hospitals or shipped overnight on dry ice.