British Columbia

B.C. breast milk bank looking for more donors

The recently expanded breast milk program at B.C. Women's Hospital is looking for new donors during the winter season.

Milk bank coordinator says donations drop off around Christmas

Donated breast milk is important for high-risk babies, particularly those in the neonatal intensive care unit. (Nicky Loh/Reuters)

The recently expanded breast milk program at B.C. Women's Hospital needs new donors during the winter season.

With Christmas just around the corner, donations to the milk bank program at B.C. Women's Hospital in Vancouver start to drop off.

"It's very difficult," said coordinator Frances Jones. "We totally sympathize with the mothers that they're all busy at this time of year."

Demand on the milk program has grown since the program expanded to service neonatal intensive care units across the province.

Human milk is especially important for high-risk premature babies, Jones explained, as research shows premature babies who receive human milk have a much lower risk of a major intestinal illness called necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC.

"Premature babies who do not receive human milk and are fed formula have a dramatic increased risk of NEC," she said. "It either impacts the baby's health for life because basically part of the bowel dies ... or, for a percentage of babies, they will not survive."

Currently, the bank is going through 3,000 to 4,000 ounces every week, and have 10,000 ounces stored in deep freeze.

"That sounds like a lot of milk, but if you factor in the amount or if the donations slow down a little bit, we will go through that within two weeks and we'll need more milk."

Jones said the bank would like to have 35,000 ounces stored and donated milk can be safely stored for about a year.

Women wishing to donate can visit the B.C. Women's Hospital website or call 604-875-3743. After screening, women can donate at 24 depots around the province.

With files from The Early Edition


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled B.C. breast milk bank looking for more donors

now