Why choose donor human milk?

“The WHO, American Academy of Pediatrics, European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition committee on Nutrition, and other national and global policy groups call for use of donor human milk as the feeding of choice, if mother’s own milk is insufficient, unavailable or contraindicated.”

“If a mother’s own milk is insufficient to meet the infant’s needs or otherwise unavailable, the first choice for supplementation, especially sick or premature infants, should be donor human milk from a qualified human milk bank.”.

“Donor human milk has been cited as reducing necrotising enterocolitis and other morbidities such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia, late-onset sepsis and retinopathy of prematurity in small, sick and/or preterm infants, especially the very low-birth-weight and extremely low birth weight infants.”

Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding: the baby-friendly hospital initiative for small, sick and preterm newborns (World Health Organisation & UNICEF) August 2020



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.

Donor Milk Your Questions Answered


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