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What are breast milk banks and when are they used?

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Breast milk banks supply fresh breast milk to those who need it. There are many reasons that a mother may need to use banked milk. For example, she may not produce enough milk to satisfy the nutritional needs of her infant. Or she may have an illness or other condition that prevents her from feeding her infant.

If you are considering feeding your infant milk from a milk bank, you should be aware of the possible health and safety risks to your infant. If a donating mother has not been properly screened, risks to an infant receiving the milk include exposure to infectious diseases, including HIV, and chemical contaminants such as illegal and prescription drugs.1 Discuss your choices with your infant's health care provider.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends against feeding your infant breast milk acquired directly from another person or through the Internet. Milk purchased through the Internet is likely to be contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria.1 The FDA recommends that if you decide to feed an infant with human milk from a source other than the mother, such as from a milk bank, you ensure that the source has screened its milk donors and taken safety precautions, such as proper handling to prevent contamination.2

For more information on milk banking and how to contact a milk bank, visit the Human Milk Banking Association of North America's website: https://www.hmbana.org.External Web Site Policy


  1. Keim, S. A., Hogan, J. S., McNamara, K. A., Gudimetla, V., Dillon, C. E., Kwiek, J. J., et al. (2013). Microbial contamination of human milk purchased via the Internet. Pediatrics, 132(5), e1227–e1235. [top]
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2010, November 30). Use of donor human milk. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from http://www.fda.gov/ScienceResearch/SpecialTopics/PediatricTherapeuticsResearch/ucm235203.htm [top]

Last Updated Date: 04/14/2014
Last Reviewed Date: 12/19/2013
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