Psychological factors and barriers to donating and receiving milk from human milk banks: A review

Laura Monti, Serena Massa, Maria Mallardi, Valentina Arcangeli, Francesca Serrao, Simonetta Costa, Giovanni Vento, Marianna Mazza, Alessio Simonetti, Delfina Janiri, Georgios D. Kotzalidis, Antonio Lanzone, Eugenio Maria Mercuri, Gabriele Sani, Daniela Pia Rosaria Chieffo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Human milk banks (HMBs), established in the early 20th century, aimed to provide safe breast milk for infants with challenges obtaining it. The spread of infections since the 1980s resulted in strict regulations and screening in HMBs, to ensure the safety of donated milk. Several social and personal factors discourage mothers from practicing breastfeeding, making donated milk a viable alternative because of its protective and immunity-enhancing properties. However, psychological barriers can affect the decision to donate or receive donated milk. To identify psychological factors related to donating and receiving human milk from HMBs, we searched PubMed to identify studies reporting psychological factors in donating and receiving milk and excluding studies not reporting psychological factors. The search identified 28 articles meeting the inclusion criteria. Eligible studies from various countries spanned from 1995 to 2023 and focused on psychological factors influencing milk donation and receiving. Most studies were descriptive-qualitative. Factors facilitating or hindering milk donation and reception included perceptions, psychological aspects, and previous experiences. Positive factors for donors included the desire to help other mothers, support from health care professionals, and personal well-being. Negative factors included breast milk exclusivity and discomfort caused by health checks. For recipients, awareness of donated milk benefits was a positive factor, whereas fear regarding safety was negative. The altruistic motivation to help other mothers drove many women to donate. Proper awareness and support from health care professionals and families can help women understand the value of milk donation and support their personal and identity reintegration, especially in cases of the loss of a child.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Human milk banks
  • Lactation
  • Milk donation
  • Milk reception
  • Mother's milk
  • Psychological factors


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