Milk Banks Australia Unite - Become a donor

Become A Donor

 Women who have decided to breastfeed will know breastmilk is the ideal food for babies. It is especially important for babies who are sick or premature. Giving these babies breastmilk increases their chances of survival and helps their long-term development. Sometimes their mothers cannot feed them because they are sick or under too much stress to produce enough milk.

Can any breastfeeding mother be a milk donor? Milk banks welcome enquiries from any woman who already has stored milk or who wishes to become a regular donor and is breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed.

However, although a mother’s milk is ideal for her own baby, extra care needs to be taken with tiny or sick babies. Milk banks cannot accept milk from women who smoke or use illegal drugs and all potential donors have to be tested for infections that may be passed on through the milk.

How much milk do milk banks expect from donors? Donors are asked to express their milk. The amount of milk collected from each donor varies from woman to woman and from week to week. Most useful is a regular supply of small amounts although some milk banks also take larger one-off donations. Everydrop of milk is valuable and small or sick babies benefit from even the smallest quantities of breastmilk. Premature babies will often start with less than 20mls per day. One ounce of milk will feed a tiny premature baby for 1 ½ days.
The law of supply and demand ensures that a donor’s own baby will not go short of milk and some mothers even find that expressing regularly means they end up with a better supply of milk for their own babies.

Donor health and lifestyle If you are interested in becoming a donor, please contact your local milk bank. Staff there will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
The milk bank will need to know that you are in generally good health and that your baby is under 6 months of age when you start donating. You may continue to donate when your baby is older than this.
Some of the questions that you may be asked are:

  • Do you have any medical condition?
  • Do you routinely take any medicines including herbal remedies?
Answering yes to these questions does not mean that you cannot be a donor, but the milk bank staff may want to talk further to you.

  • Do you smoke or use illegal drugs?
  • Do you routinely drink more than 2 units of alcohol per day or 7 cups of caffeinated coffee or other caffeine-containing drinks per day?
  • Have you tested positive for HIV 1 or 2, Hepatitis B or C, HTLV l or ll or syphilis?*
The milk bank will arrange for a sample of blood to be taken and tested for infections, which might be passed on through your milk.
*If you answer yes to any of these questions the milk bank will not be able to accept your milk.

If you are accepted as a milk donor – what then? When can you start expressing?
Most mothers prefer to wait until they and their baby are confident in the breastfeeding relationship before they begin to express for the milk bank. However some like to start sooner than this if they have a large surplus of milk in the early weeks. Many donors start within a month or so of their baby’s birth and then continue for as long as they wish.

When should you express?

It is helpful to try to set up a regular routine such as expressing at the same time every day because it is more difficult to keep up an extra supply of milk if you only express occasionally. Some donors find it easiest to express from one breast while the baby is feeding from the other.

Will you have enough milk?

The body adjusts the amount of milk produced to meet the changing needs of the baby at different times and will respond in the same way if mothers express regularly. If you are worried that your own baby may not be getting enough, you can express after your baby has fed.
Milk donors, like all mothers, benefit from a healthy diet and plenty of rest.

How much milk should you express?

Every drop counts. There are no rules about how much milk you should express – you donate what you can. Different women produce different amounts at different times.
You will find that the amount you are able to express will vary from day to day and as your baby grows. Even small amounts are valuable to the milk bank.

What equipment is needed?

Breast pumps:
Unless you decide to express by hand, you will need a breast pump. If you have one of your own you may continue to use it, but milk banks also provide breast pumps if you would like to borrow one.
Sterilising equipment:
If you use a pump you will need to sterilise it each time it is used. Any container used for hand expression will also need to be sterilised. Steam sterilisers or cold water sterilisers may be used. Alternatively you may use a large plastic container with a lid and sterilising tablets or liquid.
Bottles and labels:
The milk bank will provide sterilised collection bottles and labels.

Storing and delivering milk:

Milk banks usually ask donors to freeze their milk in a 3 star freezer, and will collect the milk from them regularly.

What about medications?

Breastmilk is only suitable for donation to the milk bank if you have taken no medications or herbal remedies in the 48 hours before you expressed. The progesterone-only contraceptive pill, and asthma inhalers may be used by donors.

Can alcohol be drunk?

Milk donors can drink alcohol in moderation. It is best to leave as much time as possible between taking the alcohol and expressing. Donors should avoid drinking more than 2 units of alcohol daily.

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

Most milk banks will make arrangements to collect your milk. How often they do this will depend on how urgently they need the milk and how much you are able to store at home. If you are expressing regularly they will usually try to collect your milk at least every two or three weeks.


Any information which milk banks hold about donors is kept in strict confidence.

Are donors able to meet the babies who are receiving the milk?

Generally individual donors do not meet the babies who receive the milk, or their families. This is part of the confidentiality policy. However, milk banks try to keep donors up to date with what happens to their milk, where it goes and other information about milk banking.

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