The milk bank at Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital is the oldest continuously operating milk bank in the world and provides much-needed breast milk to preterm babies and babies who are unwell.

Milk bank at Queen Charlotte's & Chelsea Hospital

About us

The milk bank at Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital is the oldest continuously operating milk bank in the world. Our milk bank celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2014 and has provided much-needed breast milk to preterm babies and babies who are unwell. The milk bank serves the neonatal units at Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea and St Mary’s hospitals as well as several other hospital trusts in London and the greater London area. We provide donor milk to approximately 500 extremely premature and sick babies each year.

We are proud to be an NHS-funded milk bank service which recruits donors from London and all its surrounding counties.

Why donor milk?

Breast milk is the ideal milk for all babies. Donor milk helps thousands of premature babies across the UK, especially in the early stages, when mothers of premature babies can struggle to establish their own milk supply, or if mothers are unable to breast feed due to physical illness. Breast milk from donors protects babies from blood infections and a serious tummy infection called necrotising enterocolitis (NEC). Breast milk improves digestion of milk, especially in premature babies or babies who have had tummy surgery. The British Association of Perinatal Medicine and the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition have recommended the use of donor milk when mother’s own milk is unavailable.

Who can donate breast milk?

The milk bank at Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital recruits mothers whose babies are less than six months old when the breast milk is first being collected and will usually accept milk up until the time your baby is one year old. We are able to accept milk that you may have previously expressed as long as it was expressed within the last 10 weeks. We require a minimum donation of two litres.

Unfortunately we cannot accept donations if you:

  • smoke, vape or use nicotine patches
  • are taking certain medications
  • have had tattoos, body piercing or non-NHS acupuncture in the last four months
  • have had a vaccine for yellow fever in the last six months
  • have recently returned from certain areas where infections such as ebola and zika are endemic

Please contact us for more information.

If I qualify, what happens next?

The milk bank staff are there with you every step of the way to make the process as simple as possible.

Once you contact the milk bank, we will ask you to complete a lifestyle questionnaire. If you qualify to donate milk, we will send you a blood test kit so you can be screened for infections such as HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis. You can have your blood tests locally or at our milk bank.

Once you have been successfully screened, we will provide all the equipment you need to complete your donation, including sterile bottles. We will teach you how to collect and store milk to avoid contamination. When you are ready, we will arrange for volunteer courier bikers from the SERV Blood Bikes team to collect milk from your home at your convenience.

All donated milk is processed according to the NICE guidance. The milk is pasteurised and tested for bacterial contamination before release to neonatal units across London and southeast England.

We process 800 litres of donated breast milk each year. Our aim is to supply milk for all babies who need donor milk across London and southeast England.

Contact us

Please contact us for more information about donating milk, accessing donor milk and fundraising for our services.

Email: imperial.milkbank@nhs.net
Phone: 020 3313 3559