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What do I need to know about using breastmilk from donor banks?

If you can't breastfeed and still want to give your baby human milk, you may want to consider a human milk bank. A human milk bank can dispense donor human milk to you if you have a prescription from your doctor. Many steps are taken to ensure the milk is safe.

Some reasons you may want or need a human milk bank include:

  • You are unable to breastfeed because:
    • Your baby was born premature
    • Your baby has other health problems
    • You take certain medicines that are dangerous for babies and can be passed to your baby in your breastmilk, like anxiety medicine, birth control with estrogen, or certain migraine medicines.
    • You have a specific illness (like HIV or active tuberculosis)
    • You get radiation therapy, though some therapies may mean only a brief pause in breastfeeding
  • Your baby isn't thriving on formula because of allergies or intolerance

Some mothers give their milk directly to parents of babies in need. This is called “casual sharing.” But this milk has not been tested in a lab as milk has at a human milk bank. You should always talk to your doctor first before using another mother's milk.

You can find a human milk bank through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). To find out if your insurance will cover the cost of the milk, call your insurance company or ask your doctor. If your insurance company does not cover the cost of the milk, talk with the milk bank to find out if payment can be made later on or how to get help with the payments.

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