Scotland has one large Milk Bank based at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. It provides safe, screened donor human milk to all Neonatal Units across Scotland. It also provides some donor human milk to families at home in exceptional circumstances.
Breast milk from a baby’s own mother is always the best nutrition, but this may not always be available, especially in the first few days of life. Some donor human milk can be used along with lactation support to increase supply.
In 2021 the Milk Bank processed over 2443 litres of breast milk. Over 1140 babies throughout Scotland received donor human milk. Half of the babies who received donor human milk were less than 2kg when born and over 70% were premature.
If you would like to enquire about donation please use the contact form below.
Requesting a Collection
You can also request a collection using the collection form.
Who are we?
The milk bank is hosted by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and covers the whole of Scotland. We are a small service with just 5 members of staff.
We obtain a consent and screen all donors using a health and lifestyle questionnaire. We provide you with bottles and labels for collecting milk. We coordinate a group of volunteers from https://www.glasgowchildrenshospitalcharity.org/ who transport donor human milk from donors homes, to the milk bank and out to Neonatal Units across Scotland.
We are also members of the UK Association of Milk Banks.
What is a milk bank?
A milk bank provides screened pasteurised human milk to babies who don’t have enough or no access to their own mothers milk. These babies are often born prematurely.
Premature babies are born with immature intestines and immature immune systems. They are often at greater risk of infection and Necrotising Enterocolitis, a potentially fatal gut condition. Donor human milk is easier to digest and offers some protection against infection.
Donors are screened and the milk heat treated. We are always happy to answer questions about the process.
If you would like to find out more about donation then please fill in the Contact Form to discuss becoming a donor.
How to become a Donor
Becoming a donor is an amazing step and could help many babies across Scotland. Your own baby is the priority, so we only take milk that is truly surplus to your baby’s needs. The age limit for donation is around two. We can also take stored milk that is less than 90 days old.
Who can donate milk?
Although you are donating breast milk, it’s similar to becoming a blood donor and there are only a few things that would stop you donating. There is a screening process and we can do this by email or post. The health and lifestyle questionnaire does include questions about your medical history, lifestyle and diet.
You can donate milk if:
- you are breast feeding or expressing for your own baby
- you are and remain in good health
- you are able to commit to a period of donating
- you have milk stored appropriately and in acceptable containers
You cannot donate milk if:
- you smoke, vape or are using nicotine replacement therapy
- you take certain medications including antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, certain pain killers and high blood pressure medication.
- Please contact the milk bank to discuss medications and herbal remedies you take regularly
You can donate if you have had a piercing, tattoo or blood transfusion but we can’t complete the blood tests until 4 months after this.
If you would like more information about donation or to get a donor pack please use the Contact Form and we will get back to as soon as we can.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to live near the milk bank?
No, we can collect donor milk from all over mainland Scotland.
Can I donate milk I have already stored in my freezer?
Yes but the milk must be pasteurised within 90 days so it’s important to let the milk bank know as soon as possible so that it can be transported within that time. If you are donating milk already in your freezer, remember to answer the health and lifestyle questions for that period.
Can you use the blood tests I had done antenatally?
No, unfortunately we can’t. We do some extra screening tests which are not covered by your antenatal blood tests.
What happens to the milk?
The milk is tested for unwanted bacteria before and after pasteurisation. All breast milk has bacteria in it, and in normal circumstances these are acceptable and actually helpful. However because our milk is used to feed preterm and sick infants we try to ensure no unwanted bacteria are present.
Once all the screening tests are concluded, the milk is re-labelled and distributed throughout Scotland.