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Milk Banking Around the World

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 8:25 pm
Map of EMBA milk banks
EMBA milk banks

It is well known that Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas is a member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). HMBANA is the professional association for nonprofit milk banks in the U.S. and Canada that provides guidelines, operates inspections, fosters communication between member milk banks and does much more to create a community of milk banking professionals.

But what does milk banking look like in the rest of the world? Across the globe, there are milk banks and organizations dedicated to providing the best nutrition for babies in need. Last year, we shared the story of Brazilian milk banks. The Brazilian Human Milk Banks Network consists of more than 200 milk banks and is so widespread that donor moms have their milk picked up from home, sometimes even by police officers or firefighters trained in milk transport.

Vietnam milk bank logo
Logo for the milk bank in Vietnam

In Europe, there are more than 200 active milk banks and 17 currently in development. Many countries have their own national associations to regulate the milk banks within their own borders. In turn, those organizations are members of the European Milk Bank Association (EMBA), which unites professionals across Europe. EMBA also promotes research regarding breastmilk and human milk banking. There are 28 countries with membership in EMBA, crossing the continent from as far west as Portugal to as far east as Russia and Turkey.

Milk banking is less developed in other parts of the world, but is becoming more widespread. For example, the first milk bank in Vietnam just opened earlier this year in February. Medical professionals are also working to refine the milk banking system in India.

As milk banking continues expand globally, more and more sick babies will be able to receive the best nutrition possible.

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

MMBNT Research: Pasteurized Donor Milk is Safe from Ebola Virus

Wed, 03/08/2017 - 2:34 pm
Pasteurized milk bottles

Earlier this year, the Journal of Human Lactation featured a study involving Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas clinicians. Take a look at our press release, republished below, to learn about the important work regarding breastmilk and Ebola virus:

According to a study published Jan. 30 in Journal of Human Lactation, donor human milk processed at non-profit milk banks is safe from Ebola and Marburg viruses.

The article “Ebola Virus and Marburg Virus in Human Milk Are Inactivated by Holder Pasteurization” states that Holder pasteurization inactivates the viruses, and no further screening is needed to ensure the safety of donor human milk (DHM) for high-risk infants.

Staff at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas (MMBNT) began research on breast milk safety and Ebola in the fall of 2014, after the first case of Ebola in the United States appeared in Dallas. Staff screens potential milk donors using interviews, travel and medical history, physician clearance and blood testing to eliminate sick or unqualified donors, but minimal research exists regarding the safety of breast milk exposed to Ebola.

“Although the presence of Ebola in a breastfeeding mother would be extremely unlikely, safety for the fragile babies we serve is our top priority and we know that as a body fluid, breast milk is vulnerable,” Amy Vickers, Executive Director of MMBNT, said.

Milk being pasteurized
Pasteurizer at MMBNT

Vickers and MMBNT Medical Director Erin Hamilton-Spence, M.D., joined researchers from University of Texas Medical Branch and Galveston National Laboratory, both located in Galveston, Texas, to conduct the study. Researchers inoculated DHM samples with Ebola and Marburg viruses and processed them using Holder pasteurization.

They found no traces of either virus in the samples after pasteurization.

“We needed this research on Ebola and Marburg viruses in breast milk to ensure the safety of the donor human milk pool, in North America, and around the world,” Hamilton-Spence said. “I am grateful we had the opportunity to conduct this research, and affirm the safety of DHM processed in this way, no matter where the patients call home.”

Holder pasteurization is used in all non-profit milk banks governed by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). This method heats DHM to 62.5 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes while placed in a water bath, which kills harmful bacteria and makes it safe for consumption.

DHM is the standard of care for premature and critically ill infants when their own mothers’ milk is not available. Mothers donate breast milk they produce in excess of their own babies’ needs to HMBANA milk banks, where DHM is then processed, pasteurized and sent to hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and outpatients in need.

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

Nutritional Analysis, Explained

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 6:06 pm
Lindsey runs sample in nutritional analyzer
Lab supervisor Lindsey runs a sample in the nutritional analyzer.

In the pasteurization lab at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, accuracy and attention to detail are essential to processing donor human milk. One main step in the process is nutritional analysis, which helps staff determine how to classify the milk.

After milk is thawed and mixed, a sample of each individual donor’s milk is tested. The analyzer evaluates macronutrient content using an automated full-spectrum laser spectroscopy, which is calibrated to USDA standards. These calibrations are designed specifically for human milk. The analysis measures fat, protein, and lactose for each donor’s milk.

These measurements are used to determine how milk can be pooled. After each pool has been pasteurized, a sample is once again analyzed to determine the final macronutrient content and the calories per ounce. Hospitals use this information to ensure the babies they treat are receiving the proper calories and nutrients to grow.

Nutritional analysis provides vital information for both MMBNT and hospital staff. With this information, critically ill infants can receive the nourishment they need from donor human milk.

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

Answering Your Questions, Part I: Breastmilk & Bacteria

Mon, 10/17/2016 - 4:05 pm

While milk banking is a long-standing and established practice, many people have questions about it and about how a milk bank operates. For the next three weeks, we’ll re-publish articles that answer the most frequently-asked questions we receive.

Part I – Breastmilk & Bacteria

Part II – Why We Pasteurize

Part III –Milk & Money


Bacteria Benefits Healthy Babies

Milk straight from the breast is not pasteurized and naturally contains many bacteria. It is important to know that bacteria are rarely harmful to a mother’s own healthy-term newborn or even a mother’s fragile baby in the NICU.  In fact, bacteria is beneficial in most circumstances. A mother and her nursing baby create a “closed-loop system” in which antibodies in her milk protect her baby from harmful organisms in her baby’s environment.


Eliminating Bacteria Ensures Safety for Preemies and Sick Infants

At Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, we serve the tiniest, sickest preemies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs), most with severely compromised immune systems.  Unpasteurized milk donated from another mother can potentially have organisms that could make these babies ill. Therefore, donor milk is safely pasteurized to destroy these bacteria. 

Donor milk being poured into 100mL bottles


Pasteurized Donor Milk Saves Little Lives

A mother’s milk is best for her own baby. However, many mothers of preemies are unable to establish a milk supply in time for the important early feedings to begin. Donor human milk can bridge the gap for a short time until the mother’s milk supply comes in, while in other cases, babies rely exclusively on it for longer periods of time. Every case is unique, and donor human milk can be lifesaving when the mother’s own milk is not available.


Donor Milk Can Help Healthy Babies, Too

Sometimes, there is enough donor milk available to serve healthy babies if the mother’s lactation is delayed. Like any medically needy outpatient, these “elective use” outpatients require a prescription for donor milk which is written for a short term supply immediately following discharge from the hospital. Receiving donor milk can reduce the stress for these mothers, which is important while they work on their own milk production.


While every baby can benefit from human milk, it is important to appropriate donor milk where it can do the most good for the most babies. At Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, we are so very grateful to the donor mothers willing to share their milk with these precious babies that have so much to lose without it.

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

Donor Milk: A Golden Opportunity for Preterm Babies

Wed, 09/28/2016 - 6:55 pm
Baby in NICU

Breastmilk is often referred to as “liquid gold”, due to its unique immunological properties and the positive effects it can have on babies. Its benefits are widely recognized in the medical world, particularly for preterm or critically ill infants.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states the benefits are so great that all preterm infants should receive human milk, and when a mother’s own milk is not available, donor milk should be used. Additionally, the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) says that “human breast milk provides a bioactive matrix of benefits that cannot be replicated by any other source of nutrition.”

Pasteurization of donor milk
Donor milk is pasteurized before being sent to hospitals.

Babies who are fed an all-breastmilk diet can see reduced risks of several diseases. One of these is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a bowel disease that can cause parts of the intestines to die and need to be surgically removed.

NEC affects 5,000 babies in the U.S. and Canada every year, and approximately 500 of them die from the disease. It is the #2 killer of premature babies and the #10 killer of all babies. However, using an all-breastmilk diet can reduce the risk of NEC by 79 percent.

Jennifer Canvasser, a Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas donor mom, lost one of her sons, Micah, to NEC. She then founded the NEC Society, which seeks to protect premature infants from the disease. The NEC Society is made up of healthcare practitioners, researchers and families and focuses on research, raising awareness and advocating for those affected.

Jennifer and Micah
Jennifer and Micah

At MMBNT, we are excited to feature Jennifer as our guest speaker at our 12th anniversary luncheon. As both a donor mom and a health advocate, she brings a unique perspective to the world of milk banking. We are looking forward to hearing her important message and sharing it with all our guests.

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

Going for the Liquid Gold in Brazil

Wed, 08/10/2016 - 2:33 pm
Brazilian milk bank advertisement
Advertisement for milk donation in Brazil

As the Summer Olympics are underway in Rio de Janiero, the world’s attention is turned to Brazil. While athletes compete for gold medals, others in the country are focused on liquid gold. Brazil has a strong milk banking network committed to serving the nation’s most needy infants.

There are 292 milk banks in the world, and 220 of them are in Brazil. The Brazilian Human Milk Banks Network launched in 1998 and since opening, it has served more than 2 million babies. Because the milk bank system is so widespread, services for donor moms are readily available.

Olympic rings

Moms who are interested in donating can call a toll-free hotline or schedule a house call with a technician to learn how to pump their breastmilk, sterilize storage containers and store milk in their freezers.

When a donor mom is ready to make a donation, she calls to request a pickup. Her local milk bank’s pickup and delivery car will then go to her home to collect the donation and transport it safely back to the milk bank. In some cities, even firefighters and police officers are trained in milk transport.

Brazilian milk bank advertisement
Advertisement for milk donation in Brazil

Like it does at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas and other North American milk banks, the donated milk goes through testing and pasteurization before it’s ready to be consumed.

Breastfeeding as a whole has become more popular in Brazil since the launch of the national milk banking system. In 1986, only 2 percent of Brazilian infants under 6 months were exclusively breastfed. In 2006, that number had increased to 39 percent. Child mortality rates in the country have also been positively affected, dropping 73 percent from 1990 to 2015.

While milk banking happens all over the world, the network in Brazil is one of the strongest. Awareness among moms and national organization and cooperation make it a great system for serving babies in need.

Brazilian advertisements from: http://www.saude.sc.gov.br/hijg/bancoleite.htm

All About HMBANA

Tue, 06/28/2016 - 6:23 pm

Milk banking is an international practice, with mothers all over the world donating their milk to babies in need. With 25 milk banks in North America and several more developing, it takes a lot of coordination to guarantee practices are consistent. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) was established in 1985 as a professional association for supporters of milk banking and as a governing organization for member milk banks.

HMBANA’s mission is “reaching the most vulnerable infants first,” striving to provide safe, pasteurized human donor milk to medically fragile babies. The organization sets guidelines for milk banks to make this possible and performs inspections to ensure that these guidelines are being met.

2016 HMBANA conference
The 2016 HMBANA conference took place in Orlando, Florida.

Having a parent organization such as HMBANA allows for quality communication among American and Canadian milk banks. Milk banking professionals are able to network during a biennial conference, in addition to working with HMBANA year-round.

While much of what HMBANA does relates directly to its member milk banks, the organization also works to promote and support breastfeeding for mothers and babies. Additionally, it advocates for the use of donor human milk and acts as a liaison between member milk banks and governmental regulatory agencies.

100 mL bottles of donor human milk

“HMBANA acts as a centralized base of knowledge, regulations, and information sharing for member milk banks,” Mary Michael Kelley, Interim Executive Director of HMBANA, said. “We work hard to create a system of inclusivity for our milk banks to ensure they are up to date on the latest information in milk banking, to provide a networking platform, and sustain the future of milk banking through public relations, legislative advocacy, and research.”                                                                     

HMBANA serves an important purpose in the mission to get donor human milk to babies in need. For more information on our governing organization, click here.

For more information on Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.


Banking on Donor Milk

Thu, 05/19/2016 - 1:10 pm Donor milk, ready to be sent to needy babies.
Pouring milk in the lab.

Milk banking: it’s a practice that is ingrained in the everyday lives of the team at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. However, many people in our community and beyond aren’t as familiar with what it involves, or may not be aware of it at all. What may seem like a new concept to some has actually been around for thousands of years.

Donor milk began with the practice of wet nursing. If a mother was unable to breastfeed her child, another woman would step in and feed that child with her own milk. Evidence of wet nursing can be found as far back as 2250 BC, when Egypt’s Code of Hammurabi described the characteristics of a good wet nurse. As people became aware of potential disease transmission through this practice, wet nursing lost popularity, particularly by the early twentieth century.

In order to better organize breastmilk donation, the first milk bank opened in Vienna, Austria, in 1909. Two other milk banks opened in the following 10 years – one in Boston, and one in Germany. Early milk banks provided a place for collection and storage of milk, thanks to improvements in food safety and refrigeration. Milk banks continued to open around the world, and in 1985, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) was established.

Preparing milk for pasteurization

However, milk banking entered an uncertain phase in the mid-1980s for fear of HIV transmission. Many milk banks closed, but after thorough screening and testing, the safety of donor milk was assured. By the 1990s, the number of milk banks across the globe increased.

The importance of milk banking is simple: breastmilk is a game-changer for preterm and critically ill infants. Feeding babies an all-breastmilk diet can lower the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis, a severe and deadly intestinal disease, by 79 percent. It also decreases the risk of late-onset sepsis, or blood infections after the first week of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, “If mother’s own milk is unavailable despite significant lactation support, pasteurized donor milk should be used.”

Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas opened its doors in 2004, and since then has dispensed close to 3 million ounces of donor milk to needy babies in North Texas and across the country. Breastmilk truly is liquid gold, containing nutritional properties that can’t be found anywhere else.

For more information on Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

Mom on a Mission

Thu, 04/14/2016 - 1:09 pm Mom on a Mission Photo

From the Desk of Community Relations
Amy Trotter

As a former stay at home mom for 16 years, and healthcare marketer by trade, on Monday, I found myself on a trip to Orlando ruminating about how I ended up on a 747 headed to the annual conference of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).


After finding my seat, I was quickly surrounded by a group of 30 women drinking Bloody Mary’s at 10:30 a.m. headed to Disney World together, without kids. I basked in the relief that I had earphones in my purse and a lovely hotel at the end of my journey – not the Magic Kingdom. Been there, done that. And then I realized I was actually looking forward to three days of learning about what has become my passion, donor human milk and the life it gives fragile babies.

Milk Bank Building

My fork in the road began when I was offered a part-time job in community relations at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas in Fort Worth, the third largest dispensing milk bank in North America. Weeks into the job, my husband was refining his jokes about milk donation and then the Ebola crisis hit Dallas. Things got serious.

Pictured from left to right: Robert Lawrence, MD – Clinical Professor, University of Florida College of Medicine, Amy Vickers, MSN, RN, IBCLC – Executive Director, Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, Erin Hamilton Spence, MD – Fort Worth Neonatologist, Pediatrix Medical Group

Human milk is, of course, a body fluid, and body fluids are the primary mode of transmission for Ebola. Suddenly, I was along for the ride and bracing myself for a public relations nightmare. Instead, I learned how believing in a mission can empower a person to be proactive, not reactive. My director, Amy Vickers, and other leading milk bank clinicians across the country joined forces and very quickly spearheaded the immediate analysis needed to determine that processed donor human milk was safe from this deadly and horrifying virus.

Cut to the plane landing in Orlando this week and the conference session that summed up those scary days. Fort Worth neonatologist Erin Hamilton Spence, MD and respected immunologist Robert Lawrence, MD presented the research concluding and confirming that pasteurization kills the Ebola virus.

Amy Vickers (left) and me celebrating the end of the conference.

This week, I’ve met inspiring people from all over the world dedicated to improving the health of fragile infants: physicians, lactation consultants, vendors, executives, researchers and public health specialists. It was impressive to see HMBANA in action leading the future for non-profit milk banking. Disney was never in the picture this week, and the experience was truly magical.

Stroll for a Cause

Thu, 04/07/2016 - 1:52 pm Milk Bank Stroll Logo

At Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, we know the great impact breastmilk can have on babies’ lives. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that because of its benefits, human milk should be fed to all preterm infants, and when a mother’s own milk is unavailable, human donor milk should be used.

Miracle Milk Stroll Graphic

However, there is still a need to spread awareness about its life-saving properties. That’s where the Miracle Milk Stroll comes in.

The Miracle Milk Stroll is a casual walking event designed to raise awareness of and support for the human milk cause. Various organizations host strolls across the country to get as many breastfeeding moms, advocates and their loved ones involved as possible.

Net profits from fundraising efforts surrounding the Stroll will be distributed among the beneficiaries selected for this year – all nonprofits focused on providing human milk to sick babies. These include the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, NEC Society, La Leche League USA and the United States Lactation Consultant Association.


Miracle Milk is a project of the Best for Babes Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to changing the cultural landscape surrounding breastfeeding and human milk. This is the third year Best for Babes has hosted this national event.

Fairmount Park is located in Fort Worth’s Fairmount-Southside area on W. Maddox Avenue.

Staff at MMBNT are excited to host a Stroll site for the first time this year. The strolling group will meet at 10:00 am Saturday, May 14 in Fairmount Park, located near the MMBNT office in Fort Worth on W. Maddox Avenue between 5th Avenue and Henderson Street. The 1.2 mile route will take strollers to MMBNT and back by way of the popular Magnolia Avenue. Refreshments will be provided at MMBNT.


One in eight babies is born prematurely, meaning there is a great need for human milk to help these fragile infants survive and thrive. Events such as the Miracle Milk Stroll shed light on this need and strengthen the community of human milk supporters. We look forward to seeing Fort Worth-area supporters at our site and raising awareness about “liquid gold” in our own backyard.

Click here to register for the Fort Worth Miracle Milk Stroll, and click here to RSVP to the Facebook event.