How a Milk Bank is Run

The organisation of milk banks varies around the country. Mostly they are attached to Neonatal Units in large teaching hospitals but in Northern Ireland the milk bank is based at a clinic in the community. Some hospitals without milk banks provide collecting centres (milk bank satellites) for milk and there are also some centres which act as milk depots for the collection of milk. Milk collected at a satellite or milk depot is sent to a milk bank for it to be processed and distributed for use.

Milk banks are managed and overseen by a senior midwife, a paediatrician or a senior scientist. The staff handling the milk are often nursery nurses but in some milk banks people from a variety of backgrounds are trained to process the milk. Milk banks ensure that all members of staff handling donor breast milk are trained in the safe handling of the milk.

Some milk banks have volunteers who will collect the milk but others rely on mothers bringing it into the milk bank – it very much depends upon local arrangements at your nearest milk bank. Milk banks work in close conjunction with the microbiology laboratory at their hospital. The hospital laboratory tests the donors’ blood samples and very small samples of the milk (less than 1 ml) for contamination by bacteria.

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