Mother, Daughter and Childs Daughter

Women and Newborn Health Service

Services A – Z


King Edward Memorial Hospital

PREM Bank FAQs for Donors

Can any breast feeding mother be a donor?

All potential donors are required to participate in a telephone interview and attend an appointment at your convenience to complete a questionnaire and undertake a blood test. This screening process is similar to that of blood donors and the tests are additional to the ones already undergone prior to giving birth to your baby. The PREM Bank needs to know you are in good health and by asking you questions about your medical history and lifestyle.

The PREM Bank will be unable to accept your milk if you:

  • Smoke
  • Use illegal drugs or other prohibited substances
  • Routinely consume more than two standard alcoholic drinks per day
  • Routinely consume 3 cups of coffee, tea, or other caffeine stimulant drinks per day (Including cola and stimulant soft drinks)
  • Have lived in or travelled to the UK between 1980 and 1996 for a total or cumulative period of 6 months
  • Have tested positive for HIV, Hepatitis, or cancer.

If you have a medical condition or routinely take medications including herbal remedies, you may be eligible to donate once discussed with our medical director.

Although your milk is perfect for your own child, extra care needs to be taken when distributing donor milk to sick or premature infants. Although some diseases or infections are eliminated during the pasteurisation process, blood tests for potential donor mothers are a necessity. We have an information sheet to inform you about these tests. There is no charge for this service.

All personal information and test results obtained by the PREM Bank are held in strict confidence.

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How much milk do milk banks expect from donors?

If you have an extra surplus of stored milk that you do not need for your baby, a one-off donation of this milk can be accepted. We ask that this milk has been stored in the coldest part of the freezer, in receptacles other than breastmilk freezer bags and is no more than three months old.

If you become a regular donor to the milk bank, there are no rules for the amount you express or donate. The milk collected varies from woman to woman and week to week. You donate what you can and every drop is valuable. Small and sick premature infants benefit from the tiniest amount often starting on about 6mls per day.

However, over a three-month period it is hoped that a donor regularly supply small amounts of milk and commit to donating at least three litres over this time period which is our minimal processing volume.

It is a good idea to establish breast-feeding before you begin to express for the milk bank. Most babies start within a month of their baby's birth and continue for as long as they wish. However, changes in the composition of breast milk mean that we do not accept new donor mothers to the milk bank who have started their babies on solids or are still breast feeding their babies after twelve months of age. It is also helpful to establish a regular routine such as expressing at the same time each day as it is much more difficult to maintain a supply of milk if you only express occasionally. Some donors prefer expressing in the morning, others find it easiest to express from one breast whilst their baby is feeding from the other.

Over time, your body adjusts the amount of milk you produce to meet the changing needs of your baby. It will also respond in the same way if you express regularly. If you are worried that your own child may not be getting enough, express after your baby has fed. The law of supply and demand will ensure that you are producing enough milk for your baby.

Milk donors like all breast feeding mothers benefit from a healthy diet and plenty of rest.

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Why can't some mothers of preterm babies provide milk for their own babies?

Because these babies are born early, their mother may have trouble initiating lactation, especially if they have been ill during pregnancy. Premature babies often require treatments that prevent the normal breast feeding pattern and their mother's milk supply may decline for this reason.

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Are mothers paid for their donation?

No. We recognise that donating breast milk is an extremely generous gift and in turn to ensure that it is safely supplied free of charge to hospitalised infants in need.

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May I drink alcohol?

There is no long-term harm in drinking occasional small amounts of alcohol while you are a donor. It is best however to leave as much time as possible between taking alcohol and you should avoid drinking more than 2 standard drinks. Alcohol leaves your breast milk approximately 2 hours after consumption.

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What if I am ill or a member of my family is ill?

Please let the milk bank know if you are unwell with any symptoms that you feel are more than the common cold. Most minor illnesses will not affect your milk. However if you are feeling unwell you may want to stop donating for a while, until you feel better.

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What if I have taken any medications?

Breast milk is only suitable for milk bank donation if you have taken no medications or herbal remedies in the 48 hours before expressing. If you wish to express anyway and keep the milk for your own baby, it is important to label that milk with the medication or remedy you have used.

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What if I have vaccinations whilst a milk donor?

Please inform the milk bank if you are about to have, or have recently had any vaccinations.

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Are all of my details obtained by PREM Bank confidential?

The PREM Bank is required by law to maintain the confidentiality of donor information, questionnaire and blood testing. As a milk bank donor you are given a specific donor number as identification for milk bank purposes.

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Will I be able to meet the babies who are receiving my milk?

Generally individual donors do not meet the specific babies, mothers or families who receive their milk. This is part of the PREM Bank policy. The milk bank however does offer all donor mums a tour of the Special Care Nursery here at King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH). This is a very special time for you where we can explain and talk about the issues relating to the very premature babies we are feeding.

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What equipment do I need and how do I store my expressed breast milk?

The PREM Bank provides you with a donor kit including a breast pump, sterilised collection bottles and labels. As community awareness about the milk bank operation increases, we may ask that you are given a waiting list placement until a breast pump and/or more donors are required.

Information about storing of your breast milk is available in the PREM Bank Donor Information Kit Package, which is given to you to take home.

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Can I use my own breast pump to donate milk?

It is very important that you have the best opportunity to express in a safe effective manner, which over the long term will not affect your breast tissue, your hands or the milk you express. For this reason hand pumps are not recommended. The PREM Bank uses specific hospital grade mechanical breast pumps endorsed by the Department of Neonatal Paediatrics at KEMH.

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What arrangements will be made to get the milk to the milk bank?

When you have filled most of the collection bottles at home, we ask that you phone the staff at the PREM Bank to organise a convenient time for delivery of your milk and to collect a new supply of bottles. This is best done during office hours Monday to Friday. Please use an insulated esky or bag with ice packs to ensure it is frozen during transit.

If you are interested in becoming a donor and willing to participate in the screening process please take our online preliminary Donor Screening Assessment. If you do not register or complete the assessment, no information is stored. If you register, all information is kept in the strictest confidence.

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