The Current State of Donor Human Milk Use and Practice

Yeon Bai, Jennifer Kuscin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Human milk contains nutrients and immune factors that promote health and growth of an infant. Donor human milk is recommended as the best alternative for infants whose mothers’ breast milk is unavailable. This article describes the current status of donor human milk practice and suggests the areas of educational and research needs. Articles published in the last 10 years were reviewed, and findings were summarized under 4 themes: (1) women's knowledge and concerns about donor human milk use, (2) hospital practices, (3) cost-effectiveness, and (4) access and affordability of donor human milk. Women were concerned about donor human milk contamination, disease transmission, cost, and access to bank donor human milk, due to lack of knowledge and awareness of donor human milk benefits and its processing procedures. The absence of health care providers’ support for donor human milk adds to the confusion. There is a rising trend of donor human milk use in hospitals for both healthy and vulnerable newborns and infants with varying policies on screening for donor human milk use, cost coverage, or consent procedure. However, a shortage of safe and affordable donor human milk is a barrier to its adoption. A standardized guideline is needed for hospitals regarding donor human milk implementation and cost coverage. Education programs for health care providers are needed to improve knowledge and understanding of donor human milk benefits and safety to provide guidance to parents. It is crucial to develop legislation expanding insurance coverage to achieve donor human milk equity and optimizing long-term human milk diet outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)478-485
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Midwifery and Women's Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • donor human milk
  • human milk banks
  • knowledge and awareness of donor human milk use


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