BCMC Frequently Asked Questions

DONORS   

What is the difference between the Breastfeeding Center Milk Connection and a Milk Bank?

The Breastfeeding Center Milk Connection (BCMC) is a community based milk sharing program created to make human milk available to any baby that needs it, regardless of their family’s ability to pay for it. We seek to make milk sharing safer through screening guidelines similar to those used by the Human Milk Bank Association of North America (HMBANA). Our International Board Certified Lactation Consultants review donor health histories using a Donor History Form and review lab tests for diseases that can be passed through breastmilk. Unlike HMBANA milk banks, in order to reduce processing fees for families, 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 at Austin. 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 and 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. Please note that you may already have the necessary lab work that might have been done during your pregnancy, but they must have been completed within the last 6 months.

Are there any costs associated with donation?

There may be a cost for the lab work. When a donor has full coverage health insurance, screening labs can be drawn by the mother’s primary provider to be covered.

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. Donors are required to disclose any over-the-counter or prescribed medications, herbs and supplements. BCMC works on an informed choice model and will inform recipients that 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 Donor Guidelines for Pumping and Handling Breastmilk.

How quickly can I empty my freezer of milk?

It depends. Donors are required to complete the Donor Questionnaire and lab work before dropping off milk. This process can take as little as a few days or up to a few weeks, just depending on how quickly you are able to get lab work done.

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

At BCMC, 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. A bereaved donor who lacks access to a high quality pump can borrow a hospital grade pump from The Breastfeeding Center.

RECIPIENTS

How much does the milk cost?

The BCMC is able to offer donor milk by suggested donation. This is possible by virtue of so many incredibly generous donors of milk, time, and skill. Contributions of $10 per approximately 10 ounce bag of donor milk are encouraged. We also happily accept contributions of milk collection bags. Preferred brands are Medela, Lansinoh, 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 highest-need children living in the Washington, DC area. 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 BCMC’s milk supply. Each request is individually addressed by BCMC and accompanied by lactation consultations and referrals as indicated.

If a family has long-term needs, BCMC most likely will not be able to provide 100% of a child’s nutritional needs. BCMC’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.

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

BCMC 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 the Washington, DC area. Can I receive donor milk from BCMC, too?

BCMC reserves donor milk for families in the Washington, DC area. 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 Breastfeeding Center lactation consultant to help determine appropriate weight gain and work toward resolution of supply issues.

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-promoting practices before birth in the context of a prenatal lactation consultation. 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.

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

Yes! Please view our BCMC 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, BCMC is committed to providing donor milk for all Washington, DC area babies in need, with priority given to the youngest and/or sickest children. BCMC will not be able to meet 100% of an adopted child’s nutritional needs. The Breastfeeding Center offers lactation consultations for adoptive parents wishing to induce lactation. Call us at 202-293-5182 to schedule.

How do I flash pasteurize milk at home?

Please refer to our Guidelines of Flash-Heat Pasteurization.

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