Does donor milk cost money? This is the number one question people ask when they learn about the option of donor milk.
The answer to that question is…it depends. If you are going through a milk bank versus a private donor, the cost will vary.
Milk Bank Costs
Milk from a milk bank does cost money.
Generally speaking, the cost of donor breast milk is generally between $3-5 per ounce This means that a four-ounce bottle of donor breast milk would typically cost between $16. The cost of donor breast milk may be lower for premature babies if they are fed on the milk at a hospital or treatment center. In such cases, hospitals and treatment centers often have pricing agreements with human milk banks so that the mothers can receive free or discounted donor breast milk.
In terms of how much donor breast milk costs for babies, the costs generally range from $1,000 to $2,000 per month. This is obviously very cost-prohibitive and not something that vast majority of parents can do.
Some milk banks do offer a financial aid program for those who qualify and demonstrate a need for donor milk. You can find a milk bank donation site near you and see what they require in order to qualify for financial aid.
While the price is quite high, it’s not because they are taking a profit from the milk, in most situations. According to the AAP, “The cost of donor milk varies but is generally estimated as $3-5 per ounce, which includes both direct costs such as screening of donors, and processing and pasteurizing of breast milk, and indirect costs such as research and infrastructure. Both not-for profit (HMBANA – the Human Milk Banking Association of North America) and for-profit milk banks (Prolacta® Bioscience Inc.) supply donor human milk to hospitals.”
Donor Milk from a Private Donor
Donor milk from a private donor is typically free. While there are websites where you can buy and sell breast milk, this is not a route I recommend taking. There is more incentive for those selling their breast milk to add water, not properly insulate it when selling, etc., and you aren’t able to properly vet donors through websites where breast milk is being sold.
According to one study, 89% of the samples of milks arrived above the recommended temperatures. Another study concluded, “Human milk purchased via the Internet exhibited high overall bacterial growth and frequent contamination with pathogenic bacteria, reflecting poor collection, storage, or shipping practices. Infants consuming this milk are at risk for negative outcomes, particularly if born preterm or are medically compromised.”
By and large, milk sharing without a cost is much more common (according to this article). In this situation, you can often get milk for free from a donor. However, it would be appropriate to offer to pay for milk bags and pump parts, especially if you regularly get milk from the same donor.
Is Donor Milk Covered by Insurance?
Unfortunately, as of right now, human donor milk is typically not covered by insurance, unless you are receiving it while you are in the hospital. In that situation, it often will be covered. However, this is something you will want to discuss with your insurance before your baby is born to ensure coverage if you need it. There are many who are trying to legislate for coverage of donor breast milk by insurance. Try and get involved with your local government and see what you can do to make these changes happen.
More Donor Milk Articles:
- Donor Milk vs Formula: What Is Right For You?
- Donor Milk Pros and Cons: What New Parents Should Know
- How to Find Breast Milk Donation Near Me (United States and Canada)
Katie Clark is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.