Locally Accessible Donor Breast Milk and How to Donate
for those in need of milk or looking to donate their excess supply, an Eau Claire hospital is the place to go
When HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital (900 W Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire) opened its breast milk dispensary and depot in partnership with Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes back in 2020, it marked an important new resource for both the Chippewa Valley and western Wisconsin. As the first resource like it in our chunk of the state, parents can both purchase and donate milk.
A milk depot is a controlled collection point for parents to donate their excess breast milk. Of course, those who donate are screened and their milk goes through extensive processes to ensure it is free of bacteria and viruses, which a milk bank conducts. Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes is the only nonprofit milk bank serving Wisconsin and Illinois.
Mothers may have extra breast milk for a variety of reasons and the need for human milk has only grown over the years – as was recently demonstrated by the 2022 infant formula shortage. Milk is incredibly important for babies: Human milk is species-specific, containing thousands of immune factors like antibodies that are not found in formula. When a parent’s own milk is not available, there are two options to feed a baby: pasteurized donor human milk or commercial formula.
Not only are we in need of more donors, but we are so grateful to them.
As described on Mothers’ Milk Bank’s website, donor milk is also used in Neonatal Intensive Care Units or Special Care Nurseries, postpartum units, and for outpatients, alongside its stocking of milk depots.
“Demand for donor milk increases 20-30% annually,” Mothers’ Milk Bank Executive Director Summer Kelly said in a recent media release.
“In addition to increased utilization within hospitals, the use of donor milk for pediatric patients at home has more than tripled since 2020,” Mothers’ Milk Bank Program Manager, Susan Urbanski also noted.
A brief form can be submitted online for those looking to become a donor. If approved, a phone screening will be conducted followed by an interview, and MBWGL will also reach out to the interested donor’s primary physician for medical records. Then a blood draw and screening will be conducted free of charge. Once fully approved to donate, the milk – which should be kept frozen – can be donated at a local milk depot or shipped to the milk bank.
“Not only are we in need of more donors, but we are so grateful to them,” Urbanski said. “We’re proud to be the second place – the first being the mother – people can go to for safe breast milk.”
Once received by Mothers’ Milk Bank, the milk undergoes numerous processes including gentle pasteurization as well as in-house and third-party drug and nutritional testing, to ensure it is safe to consume.
MBWGL serves more than 90 hospitals and thousands of families throughout Wisconsin and Illinois and is an accredited member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. It is also regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Elk Grove Village Health Department.
Urbanski said most of the milk bank’s pasteurized donor milk is provided to premature and critically ill babies and outpatients. She also noted the organization’s specific support to those donating their extra breast milk after a loss of their own.
In the Chippewa Valley, donated milk can be purchased at the HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, sold in 4-ounce frozen bottles for $21/bottle. Up to 10 bottles can be purchased without a prescription. If more than that amount is needed, a doctor’s written prescription is required.