Breastmilk is in high-demand and short supply in Fraser East, according to BC Women’s Milk Bank.
“A mother’s milk is best for babies,” explains Sidney Harper, Baby Friendly Initiative Project Development Nurse at Fraser Health, “second to that is pasteurized donor milk.” Human milk provides antibodies to fight disease and infection, which are particularly important for newborn babies who are sick or premature.
“Formula can also be life-saving when it is in need,” Harper says, but many newborns are unable to tolerate formula, and the benefits of human milk are tremendous.
Research shows that breast milk provides protection against many forms of infection for babies, reduces the possibility for certain types of cancers in mothers, and is also better for the environment, as it prevents formula-related paraphernalia from ending up in landfills.
Sometimes, mothers have challenges producing enough breast milk to provide their baby with sufficient nutrition and protect against infection in the first few days after the birth. Donor milk is also used to bridge that gap, until the mother is able to feed her baby on her own.
Last year in Chilliwack, breast-feeding mothers donated 117,000 ml (39,000 ounces) of breastmilk. So far this year, however, Chilliwack mothers have donated 54,000 ml, so “we have a long way to go to meet last year’s tally, or better yet, improve upon it,” says Harper.
Chilliwack General Hospital was the first prototype in Fraser Health to dispense pasteurized donor milk, and it has been a milk collection depot for 12 years. “Chilliwack was the launching-off point for this whole process of milk dispensing,” says Harper. Upon its success, the system was then brought to other hospitals in the Fraser Valley.
Women who are currently breastfeeding are invited to visit www.bcwomensmilkbank.ca to go through a quick screening process to see if they are eligible to donate. The screening process, which largely concerns lifestyle choices and medical concerns, ensures that the mother is healthy and that her milk will help the baby grow.
Upon a successful screening and blood test, mothers can store expressed milk into bottles or bags and freeze them. Once a mother has collected at least 150 ounces of breast milk, they can drop it off at the nearest milk depot (there is one in Chilliwack and Agassiz) where it will then be pasteurized and distributed to NICUs in BC.
Visit www.bcwomensmilkbank.ca to learn more or to donate.