Prevalence and Trends in Donor Milk Use in the Well-Baby Nursery: A Survey of Northeast United States Birth Hospitals

Breastfeed Med. 2018 Jan/Feb;13(1):34-41. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2017.0147. Epub 2017 Oct 24.


Background and objectives: Pasteurized donor human milk ("donor milk") is an alternative to formula for supplementation of breastfed infants. We conducted a survey to determine (1) prevalence, trends, and hospital-level correlates of donor milk use for healthy newborns in the northeast United States and (2) clinician knowledge and opinions regarding this practice.

Methods: We conducted parallel surveys of clinicians (88% nurse and/or lactation consultant) at (1) all birth hospitals in Massachusetts (MA) and (2) all birth hospitals served by a northeast United States milk bank. We asked about hospital use of donor milk for newborns ≥35 weeks' gestation and receiving Level I care in well nursery, hospital-related factors we hypothesized would be associated with this practice, and clinician knowledge and opinions about donor milk use.

Results: 35/46 (76%) of MA birth hospitals and 51/69 (74%) of hospitals served by the milk bank responded; 71 unique hospitals were included. Twenty-nine percent of MA birth hospitals and 43% of hospitals served by the milk bank reported using donor milk for healthy newborns. Hospitals that used donor milk for healthy newborns had higher exclusive breastfeeding at hospital discharge than hospitals that did not (77% versus 56%, p = 0.02). Eighty-three percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that using donor milk is an effective way to increase the hospital's exclusive breastfeeding rate.

Conclusions: Many northeast United States birth hospitals currently use donor milk for healthy newborns. This practice is associated with higher exclusive breastfeeding at hospital discharge. Relationships with breastfeeding after discharge and related outcomes are unknown.

Keywords: donor milk; exclusive breastfeeding; maternity hospital practices; supplementation; survey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Maternity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Milk Banks / organization & administration
  • Milk Banks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Milk Banks / trends*
  • Milk, Human*
  • Neonatal Nursing
  • New England
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires