What happens to breast milk after it gets donated?

Have you ever wondered what happens to human breast milk after it arrives at the milk bank? Check out the process as we take a behind-the-scene look at the milk lab at Mothers’ Milk Bank Austin!

1. Sanitize

Each day, the volunteers and staff when the pasteurization team check in, they sanitize their hands and put on an apron, gloves, a mask, and a hair cover. This is to ensure the cleanliness of the lab and to avoid any cross contamination.

2. Arrival

When the milk first arrives in Austin, the team inspects, weighs, and logs every bag and container. Then it goes to the freezer for storage while it waits to be processed. At Mothers Milk Bank Austin they process over 5000 ounces a day! When they are ready to process a batch, they move it to a refrigerator overnight to allow the milk to thaw out.

3. Nutritional analysis

Next they sample milk from each bag with the infrared spectroscopy (the MilkoScan). This is to determine fat levels, protein, and lactose. Throughout a moms breastfeeding journey, her milk will change nutritional value to be what’s best for her specific baby. In the early days of breastfeeding, you may notice your milk is very yellow. This is called colostrum; it’s a highly nutritious milk made for newborn babies to help strengthen their immune systems!

4. Pouring

After this they wipe the condensation off the donated bags and containers of milk and gently massage or swirl them to loosen up bits of fat.Once the milk is fully thawed, they pour it through strainers into large flasks. This is to separate any debris, such as hair or dirt from the milk.

Then the milk goes into ‘pools’, these pools usually consist off 3-5 donors. The pools are mixed to meet the nutritional needs of the premature and sick babies. They thoroughly mix the pools to make sure the ratios are equally balanced.

5. Bottling

After the pools are mixed, they pour the milk into custom, BPA free, tamper-evident, 3 ounce bottles. At some banks the bottle sizes range from 1.5 to 8 ounces. Once the milk is bottled it’s ready for pasteurization.

6. Pasteurization

The bank uses the holding method to pasteurize. This means the milk is heated up to 145°F for 30 minutes, then cooled back down to room temperature. This step is important to kill potentially harmful viruses and bacteria that may be in the milk, while leaving the nutritional benefits intact.

7. Bacteriological Cultures

A third-party lab cultures to the milk before and after the pasteurization process to ensure all the dangerous germs and bad stuff is removed. Any milk containing bacteria after being pasteurized is thrown out.

8. Freezer

Once the lab confirms there is no bacterial growth in the milk, it is ready to be taken to the freezer. The milk is stored in the deep freezer until a baby needs it. When it’s time to ship to the hospital or outpatient families they send the milk frozen in coolers overnight to avoid the milk spoiling.

The whole process is so cool! It’s amazing to see the work done by the these awesome mommas, volunteers, and staff!


Top Image: bwhealthcareworld.businessworld.in

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