How to Donate Breast Milk: Collecting Your Milk

Congratulations!  You have completed the screening process, returned the paperwork, and have been approved to donate milk! Collection is an important part of the process of learning how to donate breast milk.

Pump and collect your milk

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
    Dry with a clean towel. Gently wipe nipples and then breast, from the nipple out, with clean, damp washcloth (use mild soap) before each pumping.
  2. Express or pump your milk into a sterile container.
    We prefer you freeze milk in the pre-sterilized containers we provide. However, if you do not have any, you may use any food-grade hard plastic or glass container which has been boiled for five minutes. Leave ½ inch at the top of the container for the milk to expand as it freezes. We accept milk stored in milk storage bags, but we encourage you to freeze your milk in the containers we provide to reduce waste due to torn bags.
    • If you are collecting directly into the container you will use for freezing, open it and place the cap on the table facing up.
    • If you are pumping into another container, please leave the storage container closed until you are finished pumping and are ready to pour the milk into it. Do not touch the top lip of the container or the inside of the cap or container.
  3. Write your Donor ID number, last name, and pump date on each container.
    If you are donating milk collected before contacting us, please make sure your name or ID# is clearly marked either on each container of milk or on the outside of a bag that contains your containers of milk.
  4. Refrigerate or freeze your milk within 30 minutes of pumping.
    • You may refrigerate your milk for up to 24 hours before freezing. If there is still room for more milk in the container after one pumping session, you may add to it before freezing. 
    • You may also add fresh milk to frozen milk using the following method: Chill fresh milk in the refrigerator for 30 min. then pour chilled fresh milk on top of frozen milk. Cap and replace in freezer.
  5. Clean your pump.
    You must wash, rinse and sterilize the pump parts that touch your breast or milk one time per day, every day that you use it. If you pump two or more times per day, simply rinse between sessions. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.

When to contact us

  • If you, your baby, or any household member becomes ill.
  • If you are unsure about whether to save milk for donation.
  • If you occasionally take medication, call to find out how long to wait after taking it before saving for the milk bank.
  • If you have a yeast infection on your nipples, your baby has thrush, or you have a fever blister.
  • If there are any changes in your health, or the health of your baby or other members of your household (this applies to everything from the common cold to more serious illness).
  • If there are any changes in your health behaviors or risk factors for disease.

More tips

  • If you are temporarily not saving milk to donate, continue to pump. This keeps your milk supply even and your breasts comfortable.
  • If you drink alcohol, do not pump for the Milk Bank for at least 12 hours.
  • Do keep nursing your own baby.

Maximizing your milk power

Pumped milk changes during the course of a single feeding. Milk pumped from a full breast starts out as lower calorie “foremilk.” It will look thin but contains critical antibodies.

As the breast empties, the fat content of the milk increases. Your “hindmilk” is richer in calories. This creamier-looking milk helps small babies gain weight. It is very important to include both foremilk and hindmilk, so that the babies receiving donor milk will grow well.

Milk expressed in the morning may contain more foremilk. Milk expressed in the afternoon may be higher in hindmilk.

Increase your hindmilk by:

  • If you pump from a full breast, pump until you “empty” the breast. This will make sure that both the foremilk and hindmilk have been removed. Use as many containers as you need.
  • Pump milk after you have fed your baby.
  • Massage the breast gently before and during pumping to help stimulate the letdown reflex and release more fat into the milk.

More questions? See Milk Donor FAQs.