Human Milk Banking Association of North America Takes a Stand against Paying for Donations

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The Human Milk Banking Association of North America advocates volunteer donations as most ethical method.

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HMBANA milk banks only accept human milk donated from volunteer donors who are not compensated financially for their gift.

With recent news that Medolac Laboratories plans to financially compensate mothers for breast milk donations, nonprofit milk banks all over North America are speaking out to explain why they believe recruiting donors without financial compensation is the most ethical way to provide donor human milk to critically ill infants. A New York Times article published on December 3 examines Medolac's strategy to target low-income African-American women for selling breastmilk.

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America, the accreditation and oversight body for all nonprofit milk banks in North America, takes the position that accepting milk donations from volunteer donors is the most ethical way to ensure that milk donations will be shared with the most critically ill of infants. Through following the nonprofit model of milk banking, HMBANA milk banks prioritize infant health when distributing donor milk to fragile infants. When donors contribute their milk to a for-profit breast milk operation, they do not always have the level of certainty about the destination of their donation.

HMBANA milk banks follow procedures based on scientific evidence and recommendations from the FDA and CDC. All milk banks affiliated with HMBANA follow the same rigorous standards for screening, processing and distributing donor human milk to fragile infants, which have produced incredibly positive results for fragile infants and their families.

Nonprofit milk banks currently process milk using the Holder method of pasteurization. There is evidence that has shown that this method of pasteurization is gentle enough to preserve the important immunological properties that make donor human milk lifesaving for critically ill and premature babies. Fort Worth neonatologist and Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas medical director, Erin Hamilton Spence, MD explains, “Holder pasteurization (62.5 degrees C/144.5 degrees F) preserves most of the heat sensitive components of human milk. At twice this temperature and with the addition of pressure, these properties would likely be obliterated. Unfortunately, there is no published clinical or laboratory data that reassures NICU providers that milk processed in this way is safe.”

HMBANA milk banks only accept human milk donated from volunteer donors who are not compensated financially for their gift. HMBANA president, Pauline Sakamoto adds, “Throughout our history, we have learned that mothers are generous and willing to share their extra milk with critically ill babies and want to know that the sickest babies, the babies that have the greatest need, are receiving their milk. By donating their milk with a nonprofit milk bank, mothers can be sure that their milk will be allocated to the sickest babies in their area. Babies are not prioritized based on their ability to pay for milk. HMBANA vehemently defends this model. We believe this is the ethical way to dispense this vital resource.”

HMBANA milk banks continue to believe that relying on volunteer donors is the only ethical way to collect and distribute the human milk donations critically ill infants desperately need. Donor human milk is often the most effective nutrition and medicine for premature infants or those with life-threatening illnesses. Through the kindness of donor mothers and competence of HMBANA milk banks, donors can be sure that their donations are going to the infants that truly need donated milk throughout the United States.

About Human Milk Banking Association of North America
In the past 12 months, HMBANA's 18 member milk banks have dispensed 3.8 million ounces of lifesaving donor human milk to critically ill hospitalized infants in all 50 states and most of Canada. Visit for more information about HMBANA and member milk bank locations.

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