UKAMB statement on breastmilk sharing

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UKAMB celebrates the increasing value that mothers everywhere are placing on breastmilk as shown by the increasing breastfeeding rates in the UK and many other countries. This is also reflected in the global support for internet based breastmilk sharing schemes. The desire to help other mothers and their babies by donating breastmilk has been at the heart of milk banking for over a century and is truly inspiring. The numbers of milk banks and the numbers of infants receiving donated breastmilk is increasing throughout the world.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that all donor milk administered in the NHS should be from milk banks that can demonstrate adherence to the NICE guidelines on the operation of donor milk bank services1. This includes the implementation of a quality control system followed by all staff and reviewed regularly. NICE also recommends that mothers should express and store their milk under hygienic conditions at home and follow their guidance to keep their milk free from unnecessary harms such as medicines, nicotine and alcohol.

UKAMB urges all breastfeeding mothers in the UK who are interested in donating breastmilk and whose babies are less than 6 months old to apply to donate their milk to one of these UK milk banks. The geographical area within which mothers can donate to milk banks is growing and new and increased transport systems are being developed to widen the areas from which donors can be recruited. These milk banks provide tested and specially heat treated breastmilk from rigorously screened donors to neonatal, paediatric and surgical units for sick and premature babies. Donor breastmilk can be life saving in these circumstances, can reduce the length of a baby’s hospital stay and can promote and support breastfeeding.

UKAMB would like to see a nationally available service in which sick and premature babies have equal access to donor breastmilk from milk banks that follow the NICE guidance, and to which all breastfeeding mothers who meet the health criteria can contribute. It is hoped that such a service will ensure that the availability of donor breastmilk will grow in a safe and systematic way. UKAMB hopes that the widespread interest in and support for informal breastmilk sharing will not adversely affect the number of mothers volunteering to donate their breastmilk to milk banks.

1 Donor breast milk banks: The operation of donor breast milk bank services (