Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why should I donate?
Donated breast milk can help save lives! When babies are born prematurely, moms have a hard time producing the breast milk needed for babies to grow and get the best possible nutrition. Even when moms can produce breast milk, it oftentimes isn’t enough because preterm babies have extra nutritional needs compared to babies who were born full term. The good thing is there are generous moms who have extra breast milk that they can donate through the donor milk program to benefit premature babies. The breast milk these moms donate can be processed into donor milk and other specialty breast milk formulations that are sold to NICUs to help meet the nutritional needs of critically ill preemies. Their donations help provide a 100% breast milk diet at this critical stage. Without it, babies would likely receive formula products made from cow milk. Thank you in advance for being interested in helping spread awareness about breast milk donation to help save preterm babies’ lives.

2. Is Prolacta a for-profit company?
Yes, Prolacta Bioscience is a for-profit company that makes a complete line of human milk-based nutritional products available for fragile premature babies. We have invested over $40 million in research, clinical studies and facilities to develop and test our human milk derived products. This world class research and development would not have been possible in a non-profit business model.

3. Does Prolacta sell products to the hospital?
Yes, Prolacta only sells its human milk fortifier and other human milk nutritional products to hospitals for use in their Neonatal Intensive Care Units. Insurance covers the costs of products in most cases.

4. How do I know if I am a candidate to donate milk?
Almost any nursing mother can donate. If you are healthy with a good medical history, you are a likely candidate. You will need to complete a medical survey, get medical confirmation from your doctor and your baby’s pediatrician, have your blood tested for certain infectious diseases and give a cheek cell sample, all at no cost to you. You will be informed of any test results that would indicate a health problem so that you can follow up with your doctor. If all of your results are fine, you can begin to donate breast milk.

5. Will I have enough milk for my baby if I donate?
Do not donate milk your baby will need. If you pump after you breastfeed, there is a good chance that your milk supply will increase, allowing you to donate. Additionally, if you maintain this practice, you will generate excess supply as your baby is weaned. Prolacta-affiliated milk banks only want excess milk.

6. Can I donate milk I pumped prior to being qualified as a donor (previously collected milk)?
You can donate previously collected breast milk as long as it is less than 10 months old and you become a qualified donor. Also, the following conditions must be met to accept previously collected milk.

  1. If you become a qualified breast milk donor, all previously collected milk may be accepted if it was pumped under the same conditions (i.e. milk bank approved medical conditions) as when you became qualified.

  2. All previously collected milk must have been frozen immediately after pumping and stored in bags or bottles designed to store human milk. We cannot accept milk that was stored in reused food containers. For example, we cannot take milk that was stored in old dairy milk cartons or juice bottles.

  3. All previously collected milk must have been continuously frozen since the time it was first pumped. The milk could never have been thawed and refrozen.

  4. Ideally, each pumping should be in a separate container that is frozen immediately after pumping. However, if you have previously collected milk and put multiple pumpings into a single container, that milk is acceptable if: the container was placed in the freezer immediately after pumping and the additional freshly pumped milk was added to the frozen milk in the container at various intervals, OR, the container was kept in the refrigerator for no more than 12 hours and additional, freshly pumped milk was added at various intervals; then the container was placed and left in the freezer.

  5. All previously collected milk should be fully dated with the month, day and year the milk was expressed. It is also very helpful if you can write the last five digits of your assigned donor number (you will be assigned a number as soon as you start the qualification process) on the container.

  6. All previously collected milk must be received no later than 10 months from the date of expression.

7. What equipment will I need as a breast milk donor?
Prolacta will provide each donor with breast milk storage bags for storing their expressed milk once the donor becomes qualified. Donors will need to obtain a breast pump to express their milk for donation.

8. When can I start expressing milk for the milk bank?
You should establish breastfeeding for your own baby before you begin donating. We recommend you wait three to four weeks after your baby’s birth to begin the application process to become a breast milk donor, and then only do so if your baby is doing well and gaining weight.

9. How do I prepare to express my milk?
• Carefully and thoroughly wash your hands with hot, soapy water
• Wash your breasts daily if you are unable to shower
• Handle your pump and collection containers only after you have washed your hands
• Wash your pump parts regularly
• Collect breast milk into a dry, clean container which has been scrubbed with hot soapy water and thoroughly rinsed
• Sanitize pump parts and bottles in the dishwasher if possible
• Breast massage helps the flow of milk

10. How often should I express?
How often you express your milk is up to you. Most donors find it easier to set a time each day to express milk. Most mothers have more milk in the morning, so mornings are a good time to pump. It can be harder to collect milk if you do not express it regularly. Some moms express from one breast while their babies feed from the other.

11. Are all donors testing requirements the same for all donor milk programs?
Prolacta has introduced additional safety measures in the qualification of our donors and the collection of donor milk. It is the only organization that includes a safety combination of DNA matching of mom to milk, testing for drugs and adulteration, as well as for HIV-1, HCV, and HBV through PCR testing. Because some of the milk we collect is used to make Prolact+ H2MF human milk-based fortifier, which is a concentrated form of human milk, we do take extra precautions. Some medications that might be considered acceptable for moms nursing their own full-term babies might be harmful to fragile premature babies, especially in the concentrated form.

12. Why do you need to do DNA testing?
The DNA matching step is necessary so that the milk we receive is matched to our qualified donors. This safety step ensures that only milk from qualified moms is accepted for production.

13. What is qualified milk?
Qualified milk is donated milk which has met all the qualification guidelines. This includes two main phases: qualification of the donor and qualification of the milk she donates. Qualification of the donor includes medical history screening, freezer qualification, DNA profile creation, and viral blood screening. After the donor qualification is completed, she may send her milk to the milk bank. Once the milk is received at Prolacta Bioscience it must undergo and pass several rigorous testing procedures, including but not limited to, bacterial screening, drug screening, and DNA matching. Upon successful completion of these screening procedures, the milk is considered qualified for use in making 100% human milk nutritional products for use in the NICU.

14. How should I store the milk prior to shipping?
Ideally, each pumping should be in a separate container that is frozen immediately after pumping. However, if you have previously collected milk and put multiple pumpings into a single container, that milk is acceptable if: the container was placed in the freezer immediately after pumping and the additional freshly pumped milk was added to the frozen milk in the container at various intervals, OR, the container was kept in the refrigerator for no more than 12 hours and additional, freshly pumped milk was added at various intervals; then the container was placed and left in the freezer.

15. How do I send my breast milk donation?
Prolacta provides all qualified donors with cold shipping containers to ship the breast milk directly to Prolacta Bioscience at no cost to you, and you don’t even have to leave your home. Prolacta makes arrangements for your donations to be picked up from your doorstep.

16. When should I send in my breast milk donation?
We ask that you donate your milk when you have a minimum of 100 ounces; however, if you have been pumping and storing milk prior to becoming a donor, we will accept milk that has been properly stored for up to 10 months.

17. Does Prolacta and the donor milk program have a confidentiality policy?
Yes. All health information collected about donors remains confidential.

18. Will only babies receive my donated milk?
Nearly all the breast milk donated will go to sick infants in hospitals after being processed into safe standardized donor milk and human breast milk products at Prolacta Bioscience. Following screening, testing, formulation and processing, the specialized milk formulations are sold to hospitals for use in the NICU. A small portion of donated milk may be used for ongoing human breast milk research.

19. Where does my breast milk go once I donate?
Once you qualify as a donor, you send your breast milk directly to Prolacta’s processing facility where it is tested, processed, pasteurized and made into nutritional formulations for premature infants in NICUs throughout the country.

20. What if I only want to make a one-time donation? I’ve been pumping extra milk for months and I have too much breast milk.
One time donations of 100 ounces or more are welcome. Please tell us how much you have in storage and how long it has been stored.

21. After lactation begins, how long can a nursing mother donate breast milk?
There is no time limit on how long you can donate your milk. Since Prolacta Bioscience blends and formulates the milk specifically for preterm babies, there is less concern about minor variations in nutrients that may occur later in lactation.

22. What if I have taken medications?
Check with the donor milk program coordinator about any medications you are taking, including over-the-counter remedies (those you can buy without a prescription from your doctor). If you begin taking medications after you have been qualified to donate, please notify the milk bank. Your milk will be tested for any illicit drug use and will be tested for other contaminants.

23. What if I am ill?
Please contact the milk bank whenever you are feeling ill or if anyone in the family is ill.

24. Can I drink alcohol while donating?
Yes. Donors can consume up to two (2) units of alcohol daily. Prolacta defines a unit of alcohol as one (1) shot. A ‘shot’ is roughly 1 ounce. This is equivalent to one glass of wine or one 12 oz. bottle of beer. If you consume more than 2 units per day, please wait 48 hours before pumping for donation.

25. What do I do if I go out of town?
Expressing when you are away from home can help you maintain your milk supply, especially if you are away from your baby. However, any milk that is expressed while you are traveling cannot be donated because we cannot ensure that the temperature of the milk was properly maintained.

26. What are Prolacta’s guidelines for milk storage?

  1. For newly expressed milk, we ideally would like pumped milk to be placed in the freezer immediately. However, if you cannot put your milk in the freezer immediately, your milk needs to be refrigerated immediately and placed into the freezer within 12 hours.

  2. For newly expressed milk, we require only one pumping in a container.

  3. For previously collected milk, multiple pumping in one storage container is acceptable if milk from the previous expression was placed in the freezer immediately, newly expressed milk was added to the frozen milk and then immediately returned to the freezer or if milk from the previous expression(s) has been refrigerated for less than 12 hours in total, and newly expressed milk was added, and then the container was frozen.

  4. Once any milk has been frozen, it needs to remain frozen until shipped to Prolacta Bioscience.

27. Does Prolacta participate in milk sharing?
No. We are not involved with nor do we promote milk sharing. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), Health Canada and European authorities have made statements that milk sharing via the internet is an unsafe practice.

28. How do you determine the donor qualification and milk storage requirements?
The milk that is collected through Prolacta-affiliated milk banks is tested, pasteurized and formulated into nutritional products that are given to very fragile premature babies. For this reason, Prolacta has developed strict guidelines for donor qualification and milk storage. Donated milk is used to produce all the products in Prolacta’s portfolio, including Prolact+ H2MF®, the only human milk-based human milk fortifier, which is concentrated up to 10 times standard human milk. This concentration step requires Prolacta to be even more vigilant in maintaining donor qualification and milk safety.

Version: 04/01/14

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