Human Milk Bank

The Western Trust Milk Bank, based in Irvinestown, recently celebrated its 12th birthday helping hundreds of neonatal babies and babies with medical and surgical problems in hospitals all over Ireland every year.

The Milk Bank issues approx 1,000 litres of breast milk every year helping in the region of 700 babies, including twins, triplets and occasionally quadruplets.  This immense activity is serviced by the kindness of at least 220 donor mothers, which includes mummies who have unfortunately lost their babies and generously donated milk in their baby’s memory.

Find out more about the work of the milk bank, our donors and babies who have recieved donor milk by reading our latest newsletter.


What is the human milk bank?

This is a place where human milk is collected, processed and stored.  This milk is made available to sick babies in hospitals and other specialist baby units throughout Ireland. Click here to find out more about the stages of becoming a milk donor.

Who are donors?

Donors are mothers who are breastfeeding their own babies of 6 months and under  but have excess milk and are prepared to help other babies, by donating some of their breast milk.  This gesture can help tiny, premature, sick babies survive and leave hospital more quickly.

What screening processes are in place?

A full history is taken from all potential donors and blood tests are undertaken to screen for infectious diseases.  The milk bank cannot accept donations from ‘walk-in’ donors, had a blood transfusion or received IVF treatment or mothers taking certain routine medication.

Is donor milk screened?

All donor milk is checked for bacteria, protein and fat content.  All the milk has to be pasteurised under UK regulations. After pasteurisation, it is checked again for bacteria.  Only clear milk can then be issued to the units, milk is labelled – so hospital etc can use the most appropriate milk for the babies in their care.

The Milk Bank updates its procedures in line with current research and conforms to NICE Guidelines (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence – an independent body who give guidance on the best possible practice in the United Kingdom).  This has introduced new standards including:

  • Milk Bank Units and Donors must record the temperature of their freezers daily.
  • New track back labels to be produced and units to keep records of each bottle used in the receiving babies’ notes to make traceability more exact.

How is milk collected?

The Milk Bank issues pre-sterile bottles the donors record their name and starting date on each bottle.  Once donors have collected sufficient milk they contact the milk bank for a transport box which is then collected using various methods and taken to the Milk Bank centre.

The Western Trust milk bank issues approximately 1,000 litres of milk a year to units around Ireland helping approximately 700 babies including twins and triplets.  The bank also helps babies with major gut or heart problems so the babies can be allowed home, to be cared for in the community, with the support of family and friends.  Through the generosity of its donors, the milk bank provides very special help for the nation’s most vulnerable babies.

For more information about Milk Banks please visit the United Kingdom Association of Milk Banking website (UKAMB). UKAMB promotes and supports the accountable provision of safe, rigorously screened donor breastmilk.

Could you be a milk donor? If you are interested in donating milk please contact the Western Trust Milk Bank on: Tel: 028 6862 8333.

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