You are here

Milk Bank

Maternity & Neonatal Services

The lifesaving power of donor milk

When a mother’s milk is not an option for her newborn, Saint Luke’s Heart of America Mothers’ Milk Bank is there to provide nourishment.

Find a Doctor

A mother’s milk overflows with nutrients essential for newborns, but complications prevent some mothers from providing this precious nourishment. Too often, the smallest and sickest babies are the ones who don’t get the nutrition that would nurse them to strength the fastest – human milk.

The lifesaving power of donor milk

When it comes to providing the nutrients newborns need, there’s no replacement for human breast milk. So when mother’s milk isn’t an option, pasteurized donor milk is far superior to formula. Studies show babies receiving donor milk compared to those on formula:

  • Were less likely to suffer fatal conditions
  • Had much lower rates of infection
  • Spent less time in the hospital after birth
  • Were more likely to grow and thrive

As a breastfeeding mother, you are able to give tremendous support to your baby’s health. At Saint Luke’s Heart of America Mothers’ Milk Bank, we provide a way for you to share that same care and nourishment to other newborns who desperately need the benefits breast milk offers.

A gift that keeps giving

Breast milk follows the laws of supply and demand. The more milk you pump, the more you produce. You produce far more milk than your baby will ever need – milk that could save the life of a newborn.

How to become a donor

If you would like to donate your extra breast milk to a baby in need, our team will guide you through the steps. To learn more about donor criteria, please call us at (816) 932-4888 or email kcmilkbank@saint-lukes.org. Once you’re an official donor, you can deliver your milk supply directly to Saint Luke’s Hospital, a designated milk depot or make arrangements for long distance shipping.. It will then be thoroughly inspected and pasteurized to ensure safety.

    Other ways to be a lifesaver

    Aside from being a milk donor, there are many ways to help our milk bank continue giving newborns the nourishment they need. If interested, you can also:

    • Volunteer – help at the milk bank or promote donations through your social media.
    • Provide monetary gifts – visit saintlukesgiving.org or call Saint Luke’s Hospital Foundation at 816-932-2252.

    About us

    Launched in 2010, Saint Luke’s Heart of America Mothers' Milk Bank is the 13th in the United States. We are members of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. The HMBANA promotes and supports safe, ethical, and cost-effective methods of collecting and processing donor milk. Since it began in 1986, HMBANA banks have an unblemished safety record.

    Saint Luke's Heart of America Mothers’ Milk Bank
    4401 Wornall Road
    Kansas City, MO 64111
    816-932-4888

    In the absence of the infant’s own mother’s milk, pasteurized donor human milk offers many of the same benefits for the infant, such as optimal nutrition, easy digestibility, and immunologic protection against many organisms and diseases.

    Human milk also contains growth factors that can protect immature tissue, promote maturation, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract, and promote healing of tissue damaged by infection.

    Reasons for prescribing pasteurized donor human milk include but are not limited to:

    • Prematurity
    • Allergies
    • Feeding/formula intolerance
    • Post-operative nutrition
    • Infectious diseases
    • Moms who cannot nurse their babies for medical reasons, but they want their baby to benefit from human milk
    • Adoptive parents who want human milk instead of formula for their baby
    • Low milk supply
    • Babies who are failing to thrive on formula 
    • Babies and toddlers with life-threatening diseases or conditions 
    • Children with failing immune systems or catastrophic diseases 
    • Multiple birth babies, who challenge a mothers milk supply
    • Adopted infants, whose moms believe in the value of breast milk but can’t produce their own 

    In addition, we believe in getting every baby off to a good start in life. If milk is available, we will fill some prescriptions for milk if a baby is newborn and healthy.

    Is there a great need for milk donors?

    Yes! Nationwide, infants’ medical need for Donor Human Milk far surpasses the supply and continues to increase. Increasing preterm birth rates mean an increased need for donor milk in the neonatal intensive care units. Preterm infants are most in need of human milk, yet their moms are the least likely to be able to provide what they need in the earliest days of life. Mothers who have surplus milk can help fill this need and give fragile infants a better chance to grow and thrive.
     
    Who donates milk?
    Milk Bank donors are healthy, conscientious women who care about others. They are most often nursing their own babies, have an abundant milk supply, and donate their surplus milk to the Milk Bank. Women who donate their milk often say they receive deep personal satisfaction from knowing they have helped improve the health of other babies.
     
    Are milk donors paid?
    No. Milk donors are volunteers who donate to help save fragile infants. It is your voluntary contribution to the health of the next generation.
     
    Is donating your milk a tax-deductible donation?
    No. The IRS does not allow a deduction for donating any kind of human tissue. However, you can deduct mileage you incur in your volunteer efforts as well as the cost of your breast pump.
     
    Do donors have to send 150 ounces of breastmilk at a time?
    Donors are asked to commit to donating 150 ounces before their baby turns one year old.
     
    Should breastmilk be fresh or frozen when sent to the milk bank or drop off site?
    The milk bank receives frozen breastmilk that has previously been stored in freezers.
     
    How old can breastmilk be when donated?
    If breastmilk is kept in a regular freezer, it can be up to 3 months old. If kept in a deep freezer, it can be up to 6 months old.
     
    Are donors able to send their breastmilk from out-of-state?
    The milk bank will gladly send insulated boxes and cover all shipping expenses for donors who wish to send their milk from out-of-state.
     
    Can donors send the milk already stored in their freezers (before lab testing or screening)?
    Donors may send any frozen breastmilk (within the acceptable age range and free of restricted medications) that may be currently stored.
     
    Where is my breastmilk sent following the pasteurization process?
    After the pasteurization process and lab testing, donor breastmilk is sent primarily to local Neonatal Intensive Care Units. Some out-of-state hospitals also receive donor breastmilk for their NICUs.
     
    How does pasteurization affect donated milk?
    All donor milk is pasteurized in order to eliminate any bacteria or other infecting organisms that may have been present. A small percentage of nutritional and immunological properties are destroyed by pasteurization, but pasteurized milk retains many of its most beneficial qualities. It contains many special properties that cannot be duplicated by commercial milk formulas.
     
    Is donor milk safe from the AIDS virus?
    Milk donors represent a very low risk for the AIDS virus. In addition, these mothers have been screened in a multi-step process, and no woman is accepted as a milk donor unless she has no risk factors for AIDS and has also tested negative for the virus. As an extra precaution, all milk is pasteurized (which kills the AIDS virus). These procedures adhere to the standards of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
     
    How do I become a milk donor?
    Visit  our ‘Become a Donor’ section for all the details about becoming one of our milk donor moms.
     
    What is the first step to begin to donor process?
    Simply contact the Heart of America Mothers’ Milk Bank at Saint Luke’s Hospital at 816-932-4888 for a short phone screening to test donor eligibility.