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Human milk donation, Human milk banks, Infant loss, Grieving.



  1. Woo, Katie BSN, RN
  2. Spatz, Diane PhD, RNC


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly endorses that human milk is species specific and the optimal nutrition for infants, and that banked human milk is a suitable alternative. After the death of an infant, breast milk often is disposed of without consideration of donation because the public and healthcare providers are unaware of human milk banks. In the United States, 10 human milk banks operate under strict guidelines established by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Donors are screened, and milk is pasteurized while preserving many of the beneficial components of breast milk. It is imperative that healthcare providers become educated regarding human milk banking because of the increase in informal sharing of breast milk via the Internet. Breast milk that has not been screened and treated has the risk of transmitting infections such as hepatitis and HIV. Healthcare providers should be familiar with the selection criteria for suitable donors and how to approach families when the death of an infant is imminent. Human milk banks are able to provide human milk to adopted, preterm, or ill infants whose mothers are unable to provide their own milk.