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Mother’s Milk Bank in Denver, Colorado.

Last week, I packed up the kiddos and we ventured into Denver to take a tour of the Mother’s Milk Bank. A little backstory that I think I’ve mentioned here before: when I was in the hospital recovering from my c-section after having William, my milk hadn’t come in yet after 24 hours. While that’s not usually something to be concerned about, it was for us because of his rising jaundice numbers. This wasn’t new territory for us; the same thing had happened with Vivien two years prior.

I requested a meeting with the lactation consultant at the hospital to get a Medela Supplemental Nursing System to hook onto me to give him some milk, while also (hopefully) stimulating my initial milk production. The lactation consultant asked if I preferred formula, or donor breastmilk. Say what? That existed?! I jumped at the chance and chose the latter. The nurse brought in about an ounce of human donor breastmilk, and I put it in the supplemental system. He drank it up (and fell right asleep, praise the heavens!) and within 3 hours, my own milk came in. I didn’t need to use the donor milk anymore, but I was/am so thankful that he was given the opportunity to be exclusively breastfed since day one.

So that’s my own personal story with donor milk, and I was excited to learn more about the process to eventually become a donor myself, once barracuda boy gives me longer breaks from nursing.

The Milk Bank in Denver is celebrating it’s 30th Birthday (I hear that amazing things were birthed in 1984…jus’ sayin’) and I was intrigued to learn that it’s start was truly a grassroots effort of one lady, and her son William, that wanted to use donor milk in Denver, but a milk bank didn’t exist. So she started one. It is part of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Heath Foundation.

Nice photobomb, Vivien

Milk banking has been in existence for as long as blood banking has been. It’s true! The first milk bank was actually on a ship in the Boston Harbor, because no one wanted the milk to be contaminated. They have a much more advanced system in place now though, rest assured. The Denver Mother’s Milk Bank is a non-profit, charity organization (501C-3) . 95% of the milk goes directly to NICU’s across Colorado, as well as 26 other states. The other 5% goes to mothers and babies in need, with a prescription from the baby’s doctor.

Did you know?

  • Human breastmilk contains over 100 ingredients that perfectly sustain babies?
  • Some of those “ingredients” have recently been proven to kill cancer cells? (Source)
  •  1 out of 8 babies born each year are premature and can be born with compromised immune systems, developmental delays, and nutritional deficiencies?
  • One ounce of human breastmilk can feed one infant in the NICU for one day?

Is it safe?

  • “The Mothers’ Milk Bank adheres to the strict guidelines published by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (“Guidelines for the Establishment and Operation of a Donor Human Milk Bank,” reviewed annually) and written input of representatives with the Food and Drug Administration, Center for Disease Control and American Academy of Pediatrics. In addition, the Milk Bank complies with the United States Public Health Service “Guidelines for Prevention of Transmission of HIV Through Transplantation of Human Tissue and Organs.” (Source)
  • “All milk is pasteurized at a minimum of 62.5 degrees C for 30 minutes. Both CMV and HIV viruses are killed by this process, while preserving the unique immune properties. Additional information is available upon request.” (Source)
  • “A post-pasteurization bacterial culture is performed and must comply with our standards of no growth.” (Source)
  • “Milk is analyzed using a near-infrared analyzer which shows protein, calories, and fat.” (Source)

Inbound MilkMilk that is in-bound

The Process:

I was interested to learn that to become a milk donor, all applicants must first go through rigorous blood work testing. After they are approved, they ship their collected milk to the bank in iced fedex boxes, and then the milk goes through various stages. Once the milk arrives to the bank, it is pooled together in sanitized flasks. The reasoning behind this is to make sure that the fat content is evenly distributed to create a base caloric/fat level. Some mothers may pump fattier milk than others, (Heather, I’m looking at you!) so they are all combined and then pasteurized, tested again for bacteria, and a sample is drawn to get an exact caloric level per batch (which is important for the NICU babies.)

It is then separated, and frozen and ready to be distributed across the US. Every hospital in Colorado (sans 2) participates in the donor milk program. In addition to regular breastmilk, they also have colostrum, fat free milk, and dairy free milk (holla!)


Are you a soon-to-be or currently lactating mother? If you’re interested in learning more on how to become a milk donor, click here to fill out the application. You can help give babies the gift of life through breastmilk. I know I’m signing up ASAP myself, we can trade pumping stories over the water cooler, aka: facebook messenger.


Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this post. Just love the cause. :) All photos courtesy of Mother’s Milk Bank, Denver.


2 comments to Mother’s Milk Bank in Denver, Colorado.