EMBA European Milk Bank Association
282 Active milk banks
18 Planned milk banks
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Questions & answers

How do I donate my milk to a milk bank?

EMBA is an organization with members from all over Europe. We have an organizing office in Italy, Milan, and we support the milk banks and their work, but we do not handle donations.

Please search our web site https://europeanmilkbanking.com/ for contacts in your country. You will find them if you click on the flag for the country where you wish to donate.

Can I donate my milk to another country while on vacation or on business?

In general milk banks in Europe don't recruit donors who are short term visitors to their country - this is because donors need to be registered with local healthcare providers and extensively screened including via blood tests. The milk banks also need to be able to contact donors in the future (it could be up to many years later) and this is more difficult if they live in another country. It may be possible to store your milk in the hotel freezer (hotels are often very helpful) and take your frozen milk back home with you by placing it in the hold of the aircraft with your luggage. Some airlines are very helpful so do discuss it with them. The hold is a very cold area and if the milk is packed in an insulated cold box with ice packs and extra insulation (bubble wrap, newspaper or polystyrene chips work well) the milk will usually stay frozen for 12 – 24 hours depending on the volume of milk).

Are there standard guidelines for storing expressed breast milk?

Most milk banks follow their national or local guidelines but where these are not available the EMBA has compiled a consensus document that collates recommendations for establishing and operating human milk banks. These will be available soon on the EMBA website.

How do I become a member of EMBA?

Becoming a member of EMBA is easy – simply click on the ‘Join Us’ at the top right hand side of the EMBA website homepage. You will be asked to complete the application fomr and include payment details. Membership runs from the 1st January to the 31st December and members have access to the Members Only section of the website via a password that changes each year.

Membership also give you discounted registration for EMBA conferences.

Are there materials or toolkits for starting a milk bank?

The organisation PATH (www.path.org) have recently made available a selection of tools and resources aimed at facilitating national and local organisations to establish and safely and sustainably operate human milk banks. These will soon be accessible via the PATH website and EMBA will be helping to promote their use.

Is donor milk always pasteurised or heat-treated?

Most of the national guidelines worldwide recommend the pasteurisation of donor human milk with the Holder method at 62.5°C for 30 minutes. But there are a few exceptions: in Norway and in some donor milk bank in Germany unpasteurised milk is used. Donors are tested every third month for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B and C and cytomegalovirus. Every bottle of milk is tested for bacteria. If the donor milk is used unpasteurised only very low levels of skin commensals are allowed in the milk. The raw milk contains the full amount of its bioactive compounds e.g. bile-salt-stimulated lipase, lysozyme, lactoferrin and even its probiotic activity.

How long can a woman donate her milk?

There are different recommendations within Europe and the duration varies. In the UK some milk banks require donors to stop when their baby reaches 4 months, some at 6 months but most can donate up to 1 year. One milk bank in the UK has no restrictions. Elsewhere, Switzerland has 6 months as the maximum duration and Italy 12 months. No restrictions are also the case in other countries.

There is little data regarding human milk composition beyond one year postpartum. In a study with 131 samples from lactating mothers from 11 to 17 month postpartum and 33 samples from banked human milk less than one year postpartum the human milk between 11 and 17 months postpartum provides equal or greater concentrations of macronutrients and specific bioactive proteins compared with mature milk bank samples donated in the first year postpartum. The authors found small but significantly lower concentrations of zinc, calcium, iron and oligosaccharides (88.2 mg/ml vs. 9.3 mg/ml) and conclude that mineral fortification is required to meet the nutrient requirements of preterm infants. If milk banks accept donations from lactating mothers beyond one year post-partum the supply of donor milk can be expected to increase.

Perrin MT, Fogleman AD, Newburg DS, Allen JC. A longitudinal study of human milk composition in the second year postpartum: implications for human milk banking. Matern Child Nutr. 2017 Jan;13(1).

What are the benefits of human milk in preterm low birth weights infants?

The benefits of human milk nutrition have been published in numerous studies. Short term effects are: better feed tolerance, prevention of retinopathy of prematurity, lower risk of necrotising enterocolitis and sepsis, reduced length of hospital stay. Long term outcomes are: lower risk of cardiovascular disorders and better neurological outcome (improved cognitive, behavioural, and real-world academic performance, higher IQ, better receptive language, etc).

Front Nutr. 2017 May 26;4:20. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2017.00020

Does the use of donor milk improve or make it difficult to use mothers' own milk in very low birth weights infants?

The use of donor human milk is a bridge to the use of mothers' own milk and it is reported that implementation of a Donor Milk Program is associated with greater consumption of mothers' own milk among very low birth weights infants.

J Hum Lact. 2016 May;32(2):221-8. doi: 10.1177/0890334415598305

Is donor human milk (DHM) associated with decreased rates of short-term, in-hospital growth of very low birth weight (VLBW) infants compared to both preterm formula and mother’ own milk?

A recently published retrospective study in the United States examined VLBW infant weight and length z-scores during the NICU hospitalisation and after discharge (until the age of 2 years) according to the in-NICU feeding type (mother’s own milk, donor human milk (DHM) or preterm formula). Very low birth weight (VLBW) infant weight and length z-scores declined during the NICU hospitalisation but no relationship was found between the DHM proportion and growth Z-score while a positive association was found with formula proportion. However, after discharge, the overall growth pattern reversed from decreasing to increasing z-scores without variation by in-NICU feeding type. These findings support the use of DM early in the post-birth period to mitigate potential risk from formula without compromising long-term growth (until the age of 2 years).

Nutrients 2019, 11(2), 241;

Is the preterm gut microbiome dependant on feeding type (mother’s own milk, donor milk or formula)?

Little is known about the effect of donor human milk (DHM) upon preterm microbiota and its potential biological implications. A prospective observational cohort study in NICU of 69 neonates <32 weeks of gestation and with a birth weight ≤1,500g was conducted in a referral neonatal intensive care unit with the objective to determine the impact of DHM upon preterm gut microbiota. Neonates were classified in three groups according to feeding practices consisting of their Mother’s Own Milk (MOM), DHM, or formula. It was found that DHM favours an intestinal microbiome more similar to MOM than formula despite the differences between MOM and DHM.

Front. Microbiol., 27 June 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2018.01376