Why choose donor human milk?

Donor human milk is recommended by the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) for premature or vulnerable babies in circumstances where mother’s own milk is not available.

Global Breastfeeding Collective (PATH, UNICEF, World Health Organisation) November 2017


Breastfeeding has long been recognized as an essential part of newborn care and the optimal source of infant nutrition and immune protection. Challenges remain, however, in meeting global targets for early, exclusive, and continued breastfeeding, resulting in far too few infants receiving the full benefits of lifesaving human milk for the best start in life. Enhanced policies and programs are needed to effectively protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. The includes focus on sick and vulnerable newborns who are greatest risk of negative health outcomes in the absence of human milk, such as those born preterm or low birthweight…..In these special cases when the optimal choice of direct breastfeeding is not a possibility, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of donor human milk, not formula, as the next best option for ensuring exclusive human milk feeding until mother’s own milk becomes readily available via breastfeeding or milk expression. Further, WHO recommends that if donor human milk is needed, then it should be safely provided through a human milk bank (HMB).

While donor human milk cannot provide the full benefits of direct breastfeeding from a newborn’s mother, it is preferable to infant formula due to reduced risk of sepsis, necrotizing enterocolitis, diarrhea, and feeding intolerance, as well as length of stay in critical care.

ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition; Arslanoglu, Sertac,; Corpeleijn, Willemijn; Moro, Guido; Braegger, Christian; Campoy, Cristina; Colomb, Virginie; Decsi, Tamas; Domellöf, Magnus; Fewtrell, Mary; Hojsak, Iva; Mihatsch, Walter; Mølgaard, Christian; Shamir, Raanan; Turck, Dominique; van Goudoever, Johannes

“Donor Human Milk for Preterm Infants: Current Evidence and Research Directions” (JPGN 2013; 57: 535-542)

Protection against necrotizing enterocolitis is the major clinical benefit deriving from the use of DHM when compared with formula. Limited data also suggest unfortified DHM to be associated with improved feeding tolerance and with reduced cardiovascular risk factors during adolescence. Presence of a human milk bank (HMB) does not decrease breast-feeding rates at discharge, but decreases the use of formula during the first weeks of life. This commentary emphasizes that fresh own mother’s milk (OMM) is the first choice in preterm infant feeding and strong efforts should be made to promote lactation. When OMM is not available, DHM is the recommended alternative.

In this section you can also find out about the service we offer to hospitals throughout England, Wales and Ireland including:

Our leaflet “Donor Milk Your Questions Answered” explains the benefits of donor milk to recipient families as well as explaining the donor screening and pasteurisation process. Please click here to view the leaflet. Printed copies are available free of charge for hospitals to distribute, please contact us if you would like some.


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