for breast milk donors

How it works

Human milk is important for all babies. But for medically fragile or premature infants, breast milk is even more critical. Even life saving.

When a mother’s own breast milk isn’t available, the next best option is milk that has been donated by a carefully screened mom and thoroughly pasteurized. A healthy breastfeeding mom can donate excess milk by pumping and storing the milk in a freezer. Frozen bags of milk can then be dropped off at or shipped to our accredited lab in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

The Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank is a part of the Human Milk Banking Association of America, which provides strict standards and policies for breast milk collection and pasteurization.

Want to know if you qualify to be a breast milk donor?

Who can Donate

Healthy women are encouraged to donate breast milk when:

  • You’re already meeting your own baby’s needs.
  • You are a bereaved mother or surrogate.
  • You’re willing to participate fully in the screening process, which includes a blood draw.
  • You’re willing to donate at least 150 ounces. There is no minimum amount for bereaved moms.
  • You’re not taking any unapproved medications or herbal supplements, including fenugreek
    (please contact us with specific questions).
  • You do not smoke or use tobacco products.
Milk Can be Accepted that Is:
  • Pumped on or prior to the first birthday of the donor’s baby. The milk bank may accept milk beyond one year postpartum when outpatient donor milk needs are high.
  • Stored in a freestanding freezer (chest or upright) for up to 6 months.
  • Stored in a refrigerator/freezer combo for up to 3 months.
  • Not pumped within 12 hours after consuming alcohol.

How to Donate

If you’re a healthy breastfeeding mom, you may be eligible to donate your excess breast milk.

  1. Contact us
    Interested in donating? The first step is an initial interview conducted by our staff in person or by telephone. Please contact us at donate@threeriversmilkbank.org or at 412.281.4400
  1. Complete the questionnaire
    The second step is completing the questionnaire about your medical history, medications, habits, and general health.
  1. Statements of health
    With your permission, we will contact your health care provider, and your baby’s doctor, for statements about your health and ability to donate milk.
  1. Get bloodwork
    After the initial screening steps above, eligible donors are asked to complete bloodwork, identical to testing done by blood banks. This includes HIV, HTLV, Hepatitis B and C, and syphilis. The milk bank has several options to ensure that every donor can easily have her blood drawn close to her home. 
  1. Welcome kit
    Once you’re fully screened, you’ll be given detailed instructions for the collection and storage of milk. Typically, this is frozen and delivered/shipped in batches. Due to the expense of screening, which is completely covered by the Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank, we will request you commit to a minimum donation amount, 150 ounces.

Want to know more? Have questions? Please email or call.

Watch the Video: How to Donate

What difference does breast milk make?

In short, donated breast milk saves lives.

Each year, nearly 11% of all babies in our region are born prematurely. As a result, 15,000 infants face health challenges. One of the biggest threats is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious inflammation of the intestines that can lead to surgery, poor long-term outcomes and even death. Human milk has been proven to decrease the risk of NEC by 80%. For these medically fragile babies whose mothers can’t provide breast milk, donor milk is a lifesaver.

For babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units of local hospitals, donor milk:

  • helps improve health outcomes
  • helps reduce rates of infection
  • helps reduce length of hospital stays
  • helps save more than $8000 in health care costs per donor recipient
  • increases rates of maternal exclusive breastfeeding at discharge

Donor milk can be prescribed to babies — both inpatient and outpatient — for a variety of reasons like:

  • Allergies
  • Malabsorption disorders
  • Postsurgical nutrition
  • Short gut syndrome
  • Immunological Issues

Stories

“Tyler was born at 31 weeks. Once he was in the NICU, I learned that we had the option of using donated breast milk until my milk came in. Who knew that was even a thing? While the premature labor and NICU were unexpected and scary, I was relieved tiny Tyler could get all the advantages of breast milk I’d intended.”
-Laura

 

tracy“I had no idea how critical breast milk was to NICU babies. That is, until Charlotte was born. I am so grateful to the women who donated breast milk for her earliest days. Not only am I making sure Charlotte continues with breast milk, but I am becoming a milk donor, too.”
-Tracy

 

 

Still have questions? Check out our FAQ page to learn more.