Who Needs Donor Milk?

When a mother is unable to supply the breastmilk her baby needs, breastmilk from another mother (donor milk) is the next best option.
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Who is Eligible?

Babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in state and private hospitals in the Western Cape may be eligible for donor milk from Milk Matters.

Donor milk is dispensed according to particular criteria so that:

  • breastfeeding by the baby’s own mother is supported rather than undermined
  • access to donor milk is given to babies most at risk of life-threatening complications
  • donor milk is used where it will have the greatest benefit to the largest number of babies

Screened and pasteurised donor milk is supplied to hospitals, primarily for premature babies of less than 1.5kg.

Donor breastmilk stocks are finite and sadly it may not always be possible to meet every order.

Should you be interested in finding out more about accessing donor milk please contact Milk Matters.


Brain growth in first 2 years of life…
The brain grows more during the first 2 years of life than any other time, nearly tripling in size from birth to two years of age. It’s clearly a crucial time for brain development, and the intellectual advantage breastfed babies enjoy is attributed in part to the “smart fats” unique to mom’s breast milk (namely, omega-3 fatty acid, also known as DHA).

Safety of Donor Milk

If a mother’s own milk is not available then screened, pasteurised donor milk is the next best option.

Milk Matters is dedicated to providing safe, donor milk to babies in need and has procedures in place to ensure the safety of the donor milk supplied to hospitals.

“Mothers Expressing For Others” sums up what our donor mothers do – they express and donate breastmilk that is in excess of their own baby needs, thus giving a lifeline to other babies.

Image © Toby Murphy


Each donor mother is screened prior to being accepted onto the programme.

Every donor mother is required to:
  • Complete a screening form covering relevant health and lifestyle issues.
  • undergo blood testing (at the milk bank’s expense)
  • Undertake to notify Milk Matters of any changes that might affect their breastmilk, e.g. breast infections, medication, etc.
Donor mothers are supplied with:
  • Written guidelines on safe expressing and storage of their milk and other relevant information.
  • Sterile containers for the milk they donate.

Breastmilk donors are at the heart of a milk bank – they provide the life-saving gift of donor milk.

Donors will never meet the babies they help, or even know their names, but they do know that their milk is perhaps the greatest gift they can give these babies.


Screening of Milk:

Milk samples are sent to microbiology laboratories to test for microbial contamination.


All milk donated to Milk Matters is pasteurised to destroy potentially harmful bacteria and viruses.

Studies have shown that pasteurisation kills viruses or bacteria (germs) that may be in the milk, yet does not destroy the beneficial properties of breastmilk. It still provides your baby with immunity, vitamins, minerals and the other beneficial properties of breastmilk.

Pooling of donor milk:

Milk from a single donor is pooled prior to pasteurisation, but milk from different donors is never pooled.

Distribution & Use of Donor Milk

Milk Matters supplies hospitals using donor milk with information and guidelines regarding the safe handling and use of donor milk.

Operating Milk Matters

Milk Matters is a member of the South African Human Milk Banking Association and operates according to internationally accepted human milk banking protocols. Highly qualified members of the Milk Matters Board of Advisers provide their professional expertise and guidance to Milk Matters. In addition Milk Matters staff members keep abreast of international breastfeeding and human milk banking practices to ensure the highest possible standards are maintained.
Milk Matters made it easy and convenient for me to donate expressed milk.
Kariema, Breastmilk Donor – Southfield
It cost me nothing and took just a bit of my time. More importantly, I was saving a life, a little baby’s life.
Helen P., Breastmilk Donor - Cape Town