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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)


DONORS    (click here for RECIPIENTS section)

What is the difference between Mothers’ Milk Alliance and a milk bank?

Mothers’ Milk Alliance (MMA) is a community based milk-sharing organization facilitated by volunteers. We seek to make milk sharing safer through screening guidelines similar to those used by the Human Milk Bank Association of North America (HMBANA). Midwives licensed in the State of Wisconsin review donor health histories using a Donor History form and draw blood for lab tests for diseases that can be passed through breastmilk. Unlike HMBANA milk banks, we do not thaw, pool, pasteurize, and test donor milk. We provide all families with instructions in easy, evidence-based flash-heat pasteurization at home.

We acknowledge the importance of donor milk from HMBANA milk banks, such as the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Western Great Lakes (MMBWGL). This pasteurized and tested donor milk is available by physician prescription and is an invaluable source of nutrition for babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units. We support families’ choices regarding milk donation.

What is the minimum amount of milk that can be donated?

There is no minimum amount of milk required to become a donor. We gratefully accept any amount of breastmilk. A mother who commits to maintaining her health and pumping her milk is dedicating a precious adn priceless gift, as well as a lot of time and work!

Do I have to have my blood drawn?

As part of the donation screening process, we ask that each donor have blood drawn for HTLV 1&2, HIV 1&2, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and syphilis (RPR). Labs can be obtained through your physician or through Mothers' Milk Alliance.

Are there any costs associated with donation?

There is no cost to the donor for the lab testing. When a donor has full coverage health insurance, we appreciate the cost savings to MMA if screening labs can be drawn by the mother's primary provider. For ongoing donors, we offer free milk storage freezer bags.

Can I donate milk if I occasionally have a glass of wine with dinner?

The short answer is yes, usually. Alcohol clears breastmilk at the same rate as it clears the bloodstream. We ask that mothers refrain from collecting milk for donation for 12 hours after drinking alcohol.

What if I take a medication?

Most medications are compatible with breastfeeding. Please disclose any over-the-counter or prescribed medications, herbs and supplements. MMA works on an informed choice model and will inform recipients if milk may contain medications. A recipient has the right to “pass” on any milk offered them.

Can I still donate milk if it has been in my freezer __X__ months?

We appreciate receiving frozen donor milk as soon as it becomes convenient. The fresher your milk, the higher its nutritive value. We accept milk that has been safely handled and stored in a refrigerator freezer up to 6 months and in a deep freezer up to 12 months. Please review our Milk Handling Guidelines.

How quickly can I empty my freezer of milk?

Our volunteers typically can respond quickly and arrange transfer of milk in a timely manner. Donor milk will be held for distribution until lab screening is completed. Please note all MMA facilitators are volunteers with families and other jobs and respond as able.

I have recently lost a baby. Is there a way that I can donate milk?

At MMA, we understand that donating milk after the death of a baby can be a profoundly meaningful focus in bereavement. We are grateful for any amount of milk, whenever it becomes available. We offer to connect bereaved mothers with volunteers who have experienced losses themselves and understand the unique process of pumping, as well as weaning from a pump, after a loss. These volunteers are also familiar with a wide spectrum of bereavement resources. In addition, a bereaved donor who lacks access to a high quality pump can borrow a hospital grade pump from MMA.

RECIPIENTS

How much does the milk cost?

Donor milk is free of charge. This is possible by virtue of so many incredibly generous donors of milk, time, and skill. Nevertheless, monetary contributions are greatly appreciated to help cover the costs of required blood tests, about $100 per donor. Tax deductible contributions can be made payable to Mothers' Milk Alliance, Inc. and mailed to MMA Treasurer, 2809 Commercial Avenue, Madison, WI 53704. We also happily accept contributions of milk collection bags. Preferred brands are Medela, Lasinoh, and Target.

Who can receive donor milk?

Donor milk is distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis with priority given to the youngest or sickest children living in Dane County, Wisconsin. In general, we reserve donor milk for babies 6 months and younger. Exceptions have been made to this policy based on family circumstance, health status of the child receiving milk, and MMA's milk supply. Each request is individually addressed by MMA and accompanied by breastfeeding counseling and referrals as indicated.

If a family has long-term needs, MMA most likely will not be able to provide 100% of a child’s nutritional needs. MMA's supply and demand vary greatly. We suggest exploring other sources of mother's milk through social, work and community circles. We have seen outpourings of willing donors and freezers full of unused milk, when personal connections are appealed to this way. MMA is always happy to help facilitate direct exchanges through health screenings and the use of MMA documents.

I can’t breastfeed, but I know that breastmilk is best. Can MMA provide my baby with the breastmilk he or she needs?

MMA does not have the resources to provide babies with 100% of their nutritional needs. Our goal is to provide a bridge of time and milk while families troubleshoot breastfeeding challenges or augment resources to meet their needs. We can help counsel and refer families regarding options and how best to meet these needs.

I live outside of Dane County. Can I receive donor milk from MMA, too?

Mothers’ Milk Alliance reserves donor milk for families in Dane County. However, exceptions are made on a case by case basis when milk supply can accommodate the request.

How much milk should I give my baby?

Please refer to the chart on our Milk Handling Guidelines for average daily total intake. Remember, these are just averages, and a baby's whole picture will be the best guide. For those who are breastfeeding, we strongly encourage working with a local lactation consultant to help determine appropriate weight gain and work toward resolution of supply issues. We can provide referrals to high quality community resources.

I’m pregnant, and I'm having twins (OR I have a history of low supply last time/breast reduction/breast augmentation/etc.). Can I pick up donor milk before birth, just in case my baby needs it?

With rare exceptions, our policy is to provide donor milk after birth only,in order to prevent compromising a mother’s confidence in establishing her own supply and to promote quality lactation support. We do encourage and can help identify lactation-promotimg practices and resources before birth. We welcome you or a family member to call us at the first sign of an evidenced need for supplementation, whether in hospital or at home.

The milk I received is bright yellow (blue, green, orange, etc.). Is it OK to give to my baby?

The composition of colostrum and breastmilk changes from day-to-day and feeding-to-feeding. Normal breastmilk can appear thin and blue or thick and yellow. There is also natural variation in color due to maternal diet. Diets rich in leafy greens, for example, can cast a greenish hue to milk. Beta carotene-rich foods can cause milk to appear orange, and certain vitamin supplementation can cause it to appear green-yellow.

The thawed donor milk smells funny. Is it OK to give to my baby?

Some mothers produce milk with a higher amount of lipase, a naturally occurring enzyme present in all milk that helps break down fats into free fatty acids. It is unknown why some mothers produce more lipase, but this milk is not considered harmful. It is only an issue when milk is exposed to the air through pumping and handling. High lipase milk can smell soapy or sour when thawed. Most babies do not mind the taste. If high lipase milk is noted and your infant rejects it, MMA will replace it with milk from a different donor.

Do you have resources for adoptive parents wanting to give breastmilk to their child?

Yes! Please view our MMA document, "Adoptive Parents Resources". There are many resources dedicated to inducing lactation. Whether adoptive parents are attempting to lactate or do not wish to breastfeed at all, MMA is committed to providing donor milk for all Dane County babies in need, with priority given to the youngest and/or sickest children. MMA will not be able to meet 100% of an adopted child’s nutritional needs.