Donor Milk Safety and Screening

Donor milk safety and screening

Screening and safety

Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast follows strict screening, processing, and dispensing standards established by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, New York State Department of Health, and the blood and tissue banking industries.

Milk Donors

Milk donors are healthy, lactating women with surplus milk. Bereaved and surrogate mothers may also donate. Donors are not paid; they give their milk for altruistic reasons only, which eliminates incentives to tamper with milk or provide inaccurate health information.

Donor screening

  • Detailed oral and written medical and lifestyle histories, and ongoing communication regarding medication use and illnesses.
  • Physician letters confirming health of donor
  • Blood tests to detect HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B & C, and syphilis
  • Some medications (prescription, over-the-counter, supplements) are not allowed


Some conditions that disqualify women from milk donation:

  • Positive blood test result for HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B & C, or syphilis
  • Donor or sexual partner is at risk for HIV
  • Tobacco products, illegal drugs, daily use of alcohol (waiting period required after drinking any alcohol)
  • Donor or sexual partner has received a blood transfusion or blood products in the 4 months prior to milk collection 
  • Donor or sexual partner has received an organ or tissue transplant in the last 12 months  

Acceptable medications

Some medications are acceptable for use while others require a specific deferral period [the day(s) that the medication is taken, plus a waiting period following the last dose to allow the drug to clear from the body]. Medication standards are reviewed and updated regularly in accordance with new research and information. Among the medications generally acceptable are plain acetaminophen, ibuprofen, cough drops, nasal sprays, topical medications, and seasonal flu shots.

Laboratory Processing

Donor milk arrives frozen and is carefully recorded and stored. Milk from 3-5 donors is thawed overnight in a refrigerator, pooled, and carefully mixed to ensure an even distribution of components. It is then poured into bottles by trained technicians in our FDA-registered laboratory.  


Trays of milk bottles are heated in a shaking water bath using the Holder Method of pasteurization (62.5◦C for 30 minutes). Pasteurization eliminates bacteria while retaining the majority of the milk’s beneficial components. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is among the pathogens destroyed during pasteurization. Pasteurized milk is quick-cooled, then frozen at -20◦C.


Post-pasteurization: One bottle from each pasteurized tray is sent to an independent laboratory for microbiological cultures to verify zero growth of bacteria after the heating process. Any milk with a positive culture is discarded and not dispensed.   

Storage and Shipping

Each bottle is labeled with an expiration date 1 year after the earliest pump date in the batch. Milk is shipped overnight in coolers with dry ice to arrive frozen the following day.

These multiple overlapping screening and safety steps ensure that pasteurized donor human milk is safe for the most vulnerable infants. In over 40 years of modern milk banking there has never been a documented case of an infant being harmed by donor milk.

Safe. Trusted. Lifesaving.

Key Supporters

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