Donated breast milk

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Sometimes a parent is unable to make enough milk for their newborn pēpi (baby). In this situation, they may prefer to feed their pēpi donated breast milk, rather than infant formula.

Breast milk banks

Breast milk banks are mostly used in hospitals to help with feeding premature or sick babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs). 

NICUs encourage and support mothers and birthing parents to breastfeed or express their own milk to feed their own infants. In situations where the birthing parents own milk is unavailable or insufficient for a baby's needs, donor milk can be an option. Most of the time, this involves a donor who has a pēpi of a similar age. The hospital will have screened them for infectious diseases and lifestyle risks.

Research shows that premature babies get a great deal of benefit from their parents breast milk. It also shows that donated, pasteurised (heat treated) breast milk can also help these vulnerable babies. 

If you find yourself in this situation, your midwife will give you support and guidance on all the options available. How you choose to feed your pēpi is always up to you.

Human donor milk banks

Several hospitals and birthing centres have set up human donor milk banks. Donors undergo testing, and donated milk is pooled and pasteurised.

Human Milk Bank — Canterbury

Website: Human Milk Bank — Canterbury (external link)

Phone: 021 241 2931

Pātaka Miraka Mothers Milk Bank – Wellington

Potential donors can contact Pātaka Miraka by email or phone.


Phone or text: 0211998493

Whāngai Ora Milk Bank – MidCentral

Website: Whāngai Ora Milk Bank — Midcentral (external link)

Donor breast milk

More than 82% of birthing parents are exclusively breastfeeding their babies by the time they leave hospital. Birthing parents who are unable to breastfeed may prefer to feed their pēpi donated breast milk, rather than infant formula. People who use donated milk may:

  • get it from another breastfeeding parent who they know
  • connect with one through informal breast milk sharing groups. 

Breast milk has many benefits. But if you are considering using donated breast milk for your pēpi, you should know about the potential risks.

Potential risks with donor breast milk

  • Donated breast milk from somewhere other than a milk bank will not have been pasteurized (heat treated) to destroy bacteria and viruses.
  • As with donated blood, donor milk can contain viruses, bacteria and chemicals such as nicotine if the donor parent smokes cigarettes.
  • Donor milk can contain traces of medicines that the donor takes, which can sometimes have an effect on your pēpi.

As a precaution, if you are considering using donated breast milk, you should always:

  • check the health status of the donor
  • make sure the milk is collected in a safe and hygienic way.

For advice, talk with your lead maternity carer or Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse. 

Related websites

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Information about breastfeeding and human milk banks.

Canada Health

Information about the safety of human donor milk.

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