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Ensuring Safety with Holder Pasteurization

marayThu, 12/28/2017 - 4:18 pm Lab technician placing bottles of donor milk in a shaking water bath
Lab technician placing bottles of donor milk in a shaking water bath

Milk from Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas feeds fragile and premature infants. About 80 percent of milk is dispensed to hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), while about 20 percent goes to outpatients with a medical need. These babies are among the most fragile in our population, at risk for life-threatening complications due to their weaker immune systems.

This makes it extremely important to ensure donor milk is free of any potentially harmful agents. As a result, MMBNT and other HMBANA-accredited nonprofit milk banks pasteurize all donor milk using the Holder method. Holder pasteurization is a gentle method, heating milk to 62.5 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes as opposed to the higher temperatures and shorter intervals of more aggressive alternatives.

Holder pasteurization eliminates harmful bacteria, but allows the milk to retain much of its immunological benefits, including significant amounts of secretory IgA and lysozyme. At MMBNT, staff in our lab pasteurize donor milk every day to meet the demand of our ordering hospitals and outpatients. This step in our process helps us know that we are sending the safest possible nutrition to the fragile babies we serve.

HMBANA Welcomes New Executive Director

marayWed, 11/22/2017 - 3:39 pm Lindsay Groff headshot
Lindsay Groff headshot
Lindsay Groff

It’s a season of change for milk banking. Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas is in the middle of a capital campaign and construction of a new facility, while its professional association, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) welcomes an exciting change as well. Recently, HMBANA announced Lindsay Groff as its new executive director.


Lindsay joined the HMBANA team in early November, coming from her previous position as executive director of the Barth Syndrome Foundation. She will be responsible for setting HMBANA’s vision and improving operations as well as implementing the newly adopted strategic objectives of the organization.


“HMBANA has experienced a tremendous amount of growth; the demand is on the rise for milk, and the number of milk banks is also on the rise,” Lindsay said. “What I hope for my position is to bring members together and show member benefits in creating a sisterhood of milk banks where we can accomplish more by working together.”


As a mother of a medically fragile child herself, Lindsay understands the importance of breastmilk. Her daughter, Charlotte, had an abdominal wall defect at birth and spent time in the NICU. Lindsay’s breastmilk provided Charlotte with the nutrition she needed to grow and thrive. Now, Lindsay will work toward the goal of providing donor milk for other fragile babies like Charlotte.


The staff at MMBNT are excited to welcome Lindsay into the milk banking family, and look forward to the future with her at the helm.

Event Recap: HMBANA Symposium

marayWed, 05/10/2017 - 3:25 pm Amy Vickers presents to symposium attendees.
Amy Vickers presents to symposium attendees.
MMBNT Executive Director Amy Vickers leads a discussion about milk processing, along with Operations Director Shaina Starks and Colorado's Rebecca Heinrich.

Last week, the milk banking world converged in our own backyard for the first-ever HMBANA Symposium. Held in nearby Arlington, the symposium brought together staff from every HMBANA milk bank, from Vancouver to Florida to everywhere in between. HMBANA, short for the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, is the professional association for nonprofit milk banks and milk banking supporters.

HMBANA board members kicked off the event with a day-long meeting on Thursday, May 4. On Friday, the rest of the symposium attendees joined in. The day began with a presentation about the more than 30-year history of HMBANA, and highlighted the exponential growth the organization has seen in recent years. In fact, presenters announced that in 2016, member milk banks distributed 5.25 million ounces of pasteurized donor human milk.

Guests at the MMBNT open house.
Guests enjoyed the perfect spring weather during the MMBNT open house.


After an educational general session, attendees participated in breakout sessions specific to their positions. Staff learned about their fields and networked with their counterparts at other milk banks, getting the welcome opportunity to share ideas and experiences with each other. The formal portion of the day concluded with a presentation by Dr. Erin Hamilton Spence, Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas' medical director.

With the symposium taking place so close to home, MMBNT staff welcomed all the attendees to an open house at our milk bank Friday evening. Guests enjoyed tacos and ice cream from local restaurants, and toured the MMBNT building. It was a great chance to relax and enjoy each other's company.

Poster presentations from The New York Milk Bank and The Milk Bank, Indiana.
Many milk banks presented posters, including these from The New York Milk Bank and The Milk Bank (Indiana).

Saturday brought more general education and networking sessions. Jennifer Canvasser, a milk donor and founder of the NEC Society, was one of the presenters. She shared her moving story about her family's experience with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and the power of donor human milk.

While the main portion of the symposium concluded around lunchtime, the day continued into the afternoon for staff from developing milk banks. They learned about fundraising, depot development and grant writing in order to establish the newest milk banks in the HMBANA family.

Overall, the long weekend was the perfect way for milk banking professionals to network, exchange ideas and further their knowledge of the field. Attendees went back to their own milk banks with a renewed sense of community and enthusiasm for the goal of feeding infants in need.

Milk Banking Around the World

marayMon, 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

marayWed, 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

marayWed, 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

marayMon, 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

marayWed, 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

marayWed, 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

marayTue, 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.