frequently asked questions

FOR DONORS

A: Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank pays for all screening costs and shipping (if required). Donors are responsible for the costs associated with pumping such as bags and the pump itself. We are working on being able to provide containers/bags in the future.

A: We strongly encourage mothers who live in the Greater Pittsburgh area to drop off their milk to our facility in The Strip District.  Not only does this decrease costs, we love meeting our donors and giving them a tour. If shipping is required, we work with FedEx and a perishable item shipping logistics company. Dry ice is not required.  We send you the box, you fill it, and arrangements are made to pick it up at your door.

A: We strictly follow the guidelines of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). While many medications are perfectly safe to use while breastfeeding, HMBANA takes extra precautions for the medically challenged infants we serve. While these guidelines are more restrictive, many prescription drugs such as thyroid replacement or certain contraceptives and over the counter medications such as acetaminophen or certain allergy medications are permitted. In general, vitamins in usual recommended dosages are acceptable while herbal supplements of any kind are not. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding medications or supplements.

A: The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) strictly prohibits compensation for breastmilk donors. HMBANA, the leader in providing hospitals with exceptionally safe donor milk for over 30 years, believes that payment for milk introduces significant ethical and safety concerns.

A: Infants receiving donor milk are the only people benefitting from your lifesaving donation. All HMBANA milk banks including Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank are non-profit organizations that support themselves through milk processing fees and monetary donations from the community. Our milk bank is run by a board of directors made up of clinicians and professionals who give their time and money because of their passion for our mission. Many of our dedicated staff are working, by choice, at reduced wages during our startup. In addition to paid staff, we utilize volunteers to help with everything from office tasks to processing.

 

At an average processing fee of $4.50/ounce, donor milk is expensive. There are screening costs including lab work. A barcoding system specific to milk banking and all of its associated IT requirements. Supplies such as bottles, lab items, boxes, dry ice, outreach materials, equipment such as pasteurizers ($40,000 each) and commercial freezers. Most importantly, there is staff to screen donors and process milk.

 

Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank is committed to providing donor milk at the lowest cost possible.

 

We recognize that the cost of donor milk is a particular burden for families who utilize it on an outpatient basis. In addition to their $250,000 lead gift, The Henry L. Hillman Foundation has given Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank $50,000 to initiate a free care fund to assist families. Once the milk bank is well established our annual fundraising efforts will focus primarily on the maintenance of this free care fund.

A: Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank can only accept milk pumped on or before the baby’s first birthday.

A: A baby weighing 2 lbs takes up to 5.5 oz of milk.

A baby weighing 4.5 lbs takes up to 12 oz of milk.

A baby weighing 6.5 lbs takes up to 18 oz of milk.

A: As a non-profit, our goal is to provide mother’s milk to the greatest number of infants in need at the lowest cost possible. Screening is expensive, and since all costs are completely covered by us, it will be one of our biggest annual expenses.

A: We are happy to help you clean out your freezer. To be donated, milk has to have been stored in a dedicated freezer, or deep freeze, for up to six months. If the milk is stored in a freezer that is frequently opened, like a kitchen freezer, it should be no more than three months old.

FOR RECIPEINTS

A: Safety is our number one concern. We are proud to be part of Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) and adhere to the strict guidelines that include multiple safety precautions. Millions of ounces of donor milk have been dispensed by HMBANA milk banks across the country over the past few decades and there has never been a report of illness or harm from donor milk.

A: Within the NICU setting, hospitals typically pay for donor milk as part of the care that is covered by insurance companies per their daily rate. While many insurance companies do not reimburse families for donor milk on outpatient basis, families are encouraged to submit claims, as policies are changing.

A: HMBANA and its member milk banks share the concerns of families dealing with Zika virus and its seemingly-related microcephalic conditions of newborn infants.

 

The Zika virus is transmitted primarily via mosquito bite, but pending further research person-to-person transmission cannot be ruled out. To date breast milk has not been shown to transmit the virus, however, as with all outbreaks, HMBANA continually monitors the latest research on potential risks in order to maintain a safe supply of donor human milk.

 

We conclude that donor human milk dispensed by HMBANA milk banks is safe. First, HMBANA donors are carefully and thoroughly screened for illnesses, and, therefore, are unlikely to be infected during the time period when they are expressing and donating milk. Second, the heat-sensitive Zika virus is inactivated by the Holder Pasteurization process used by all HMBANA banks.

 

Background: Zika virus is a member of the virus family Flaviviridae and the genus Flavivirus, transmitted by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti and A. albopictus. Studies conducted on other viruses within this family, such as hepatitis C, West Nile and yellow fever virus, show definitively that the virus is heat sensitive, and therefore, inactivated during the Holder Pasteurization process. Heat treatment, which inactivates viruses via denaturing or disassembly of proteins, is a widely-used viral inactivation method effective against both enveloped and non-enveloped viruses.

 

RESOURCES:
U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION. ZIKA VIRUS. WWW.CDC.GOV/ZIKA, LAST ACCESSED 2/9/16
FANG Y, ET AL. SHORT REPORT: COMPARATIVE THERMOSTABILITY OF WEST NILE, ST. LOUIS ENCEPHALITIS AND WESTERN EQUINE ENCEPHALOMYELITIS VIRUSES DURING HEAT INACTIVATION OF SEROLOGIC DIAGNOSTICS. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AND HYGIENE 80(5), 2009
SONG H, ET AL. THERMAL STABILITY AND INACTIVATION OF HEPATITIS C VIRUS GROWN IN CELL CULTURE. VIROLOGY JOURNAL 7:40, 2010