Breast Milk Sharing

Breast milk is the ideal food for all babies and the biological norm. Most women will be able to provide enough milk for their own baby. In some circumstances some women may request to use the breast milk of another woman when they are unable, at the time, to provide their own milk for their baby.

The purpose of this information is to ensure the safety of an alternative source of breast milk when a mother requests to use donor milk.

The choice to feed a baby breast milk from another source other than the baby’s own mother should be made in consultation with the mother’s healthcare provider and the baby’s healthcare provider.

It is important all possible support is given to the baby’s mother to provide her own milk before donor milk is considered.

When breast milk is directly obtained through individuals or via the internet the donor may not be adequately screened for infectious diseases or lifestyle risks.

For patients under the care of The Auckland District Health Board breast milk cannot be accepted from a donor who has not been screened. The screening guidelines are based on screening carried out by breast milk banks internationally.

The Auckland District Health Board does not have a service matching women who want to donate breast milk nor does it have a milk bank where pasteurisation can occur.

If you are considering feeding your baby with human milk from a donor you should know there are possible safety risks.

We would also ask the donor to have lifestyle screening and we have provided a form for this. If the lifestyle screening is satisfactory, then blood screening should be carried out. The donor would need to have blood tests to exclude viruses that can be passed to your baby through breast milk.

If any of these results come back positive, the donor’s milk cannot be used.

The recommended blood tests are:

HIV 1 and 2 :This test is to detect the virus responsible for the development of AIDS.

Human T cell lymphotropic Virus 1 and 2 : Leukaemia viruses that are rare in New Zealand but prevalent in some countries. They are acquired through blood contact and through breast milk.

Hepatitis B & C : These are viruses that infect the liver cells and can cause inflammation of the liver. They are carried in the blood and are usually only acquired by blood contact.

Syphilis : A sexually transmitted disease.

Cytomegalovirus : Vulnerable newborn's are at potential risk from this virus and may or may not have protection from their own mother. Therefore they are at risk of acquiring CMV from CMV +donor mothers, regardless of their own mothers’ status.

We ask that these blood tests are requested by the donors own General Practitioner or LMC. These blood tests will come at a cost and you would need to discuss with the donor payment for the GP consultation and blood screening fees.

The donors test results are her property. However, before the donor milk can be given to your baby, she must consent to the results being communicated to the health care provider caring for your baby by her GP or LMC. The screening results will be confidential.

Donors must ensure they and their own baby are in good health and their baby is thriving.

Donors should not feel coerced into providing milk and know they can stop donating at any time.