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

Milk donors are screened through a short phone interview, questionnaire and blood testing.
Drop Off
Donors drop their milk off at the milk bank or one of our milk collection sites. Donors who are not near a milk collection site ship their milk to the milk bank.
Milk Check In
Raw milk is checked into the computer database and each deposit is given a unique barcode. This traces the milk all the way from the logging room to the recipient.
Pasteurization staff members use clean techniques in preparation for processing the milk. The pasteurization staff monitors the milk as it slowly thaws. Once thawed, the milk is poured into flasks.
A sample of milk from each donor and batch is analyzed for its nutritional value so that each bottle of milk can be labeled with the caloric and protein content before being dispensed to a hospital.
The milk is poured into 100 mL or 200 mL bottles and each is labeled with a barcode that contains nutritional information, a batch number, an expiration date, and a unique code that is compatible with hospital logging and tracking systems.
Once bottled, the milk is gently pasteurized at 62.5°Celsius for 30 minutes. This special method of pasteurization (the Holder Method) kills potentially harmful viruses and bacteria but does not harm the majority of the milk’s immunological properties and beneficial components. The nutritional composition of the milk remains unchanged. Even after heat treatment, donor human milk can protect a premature baby from many complications and illnesses.
After processing, a bacterial culture is completed to make sure that there are no harmful bacteria remaining in the milk.Pasteurized milk is frozen and held at -20°C until it is requested by a hospital or healthcare provider.
Once requested, the milk is packed with great attention to safety and temperature control during transport. Frozen milk is delivered by a courier to local hospitals or shipped by overnight carrier to hospitals outside of North Texas.