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Donor milk: Science and sensitivity

02 October 2018
Volume 26 · Issue 10


George Winter details the history of breast milk banking, and explains why midwives should be aware that donor breast milk may not be the solution for every family

American humourist Oliver Herford once described charity as ‘the sterilised milk of human kindness’. Yet for more than a century the milk of human kindness has—quite literally—been used for charitable purposes.

There is a burgeoning evidence base that now acknowledges that ‘breast milk is the best nourishment for babies and that it is highly beneficial to their health in the short, medium and long term […] If, after discussion with experienced staff, a mother is unable to express sufficient milk or does not wish to express milk for a baby unable to feed at the breast, donor breast milk can be used’ (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2010: 5). Donor breast milk is ‘milk expressed by a mother that is then processed by a donor milk bank for use by a recipient that is not the mother's own baby. Payment for the donated milk is not given’ (NICE, 2010: 5).

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