Human Milk Bank

The Western Trust Milk Bank, based in Irvinestown, opened in August 2000. Since then it has helped hundreds of neonatal babies all over Ireland.

In 2015 The Western Trust milk bank issues approximately 1,500 litres of milk  to units around Ireland helping approximately 856 babies including 90 sets of twins and 17 sets of triplets.  The bank also helps babies with major gut or heart problems by providing milk to their home.  Through the generosity of its donors, the milk bank provides very special help for the nation’s most vulnerable babies.

27 mothers contacted the bank in 2015, who had lost their babies and donated their milk in memory of their little one. Find out more about the work of the milk bank, our donors and babies who have received 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. Donors are asked to provide a donation of at least 3 litres (100ozs), by the time their baby is 6 months old

What screening processes are in place?
A full history is taken from all potential donors and blood tests are undertaken  for HIV 1&2, HTLV 1&2, Hepatitis B&C and Syphilis. The milk bank cannot accept donations from mothers that have had a blood transfusion, smoke, received certain IVF treatments or are taking antidepressants.

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 Holder pasteurisation, it is checked again for bacteria.  Only clear milk can then be issued to the units. Milk is labelled – so hospitals 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). 

A tracking system is in use so that all milk can be tracked from the mother who donated the milk to the baby that received it. All tracking records are kept for 30years.

How is milk collected?
The Milk Bank issues pre-sterile bottles. The donors record their name and expression date on each bottle.  Once donors have collected sufficient milk they contact the milk bank for a transport box which is then sent to the Bank using variety of transport routes, deep frozen in insulated boxes..

Human Milk Being DispatchedFor more information about Milk Banks please visit the United Kingdom Association of Milk Banking website (UKAMB) or EMBA ( European milk Banking Association

How to order Donor Breast milk?
Milk is issued on receipt of a request from the Hospital or doctor that is treating the baby. Milk is then packed deep frozen, in insulated, tamper evident boxes

How is emergency milk dispatched?
Milk needed in an emergency usually travels by the Blood Bike Service. Routine hospital supplies travel by hospital transport, Translink or An Post Express Post


Milk Bank Update on the Zika virusFreeze Dried Human Milk
We now know that Holder Pasteurisation as practiced in the Milk Bank inactivates the heat sensitive Zika virus.
The Milk bank does not accept donors who have been to Zika infected areas in the last 28 days, or donors whose partners have travelled to these areas in the last 28 days.

COULD YOU BE A MILK DONOR?  If you are interested in donating milk please contact the Western Trust Milk Bank on Tel: 028 686 28333 or email us at

What is new to the Service?
Freeze dried human milk is available in limited quantities, please contact the milk bank directly for more information.


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