British Columbia

B.C. breast milk bank gets new drop-off locations

B.C. health officials are hoping five new drop-off locations for donated breast milk will help bring in the extra milk needed for sick and premature babies.

'With more donors we will be able to help more of B.C.’s most fragile infants,' says coordinator

Mom Alexandra Allen is donating her extra breast milk to the new Richmond depot of the BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank. (Vancouver Coastal Health)

B.C. health officials are hoping five new drop-off locations in the Lower Mainland will help bring in the extra breast milk needed for sick and premature babies. 

Milk donated to the new locations will be delivered to the B.C. Women's Provincial Milk Bank, pasteurized, and then distributed to babies in need at neonatal intensive care units. 

"We have long known the benefits of human milk for vulnerable babies," said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake in a written statement. "So now we're making it even easier to donate milk to help babies in need."

Last December, donations to the breast milk bank dropped to critically low levels. Officials called the situation extreme, saying the supply was down from an average of 8,000 or 9,000 ounces to just 400. 

Four of the new locations opened Tuesday, while the fifth will open in the fall. 

The new locations are: 

Milk used by high-risk babies

​According to the milk bank, the majority of donated milk is used to feed premature and sick babies at high risk for illnesses and infections, such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating bowel disease that is 10 times more common in premature babies fed formula compared with babies fed human milk.

"Donor milk has active beneficial properties and is similar to mother's own milk," said Maureen Lister, a public health nurse with Vancouver Coastal Health. 

The B.C. Women's Provincial Milk Bank, located at B.C. Women's Hospital in Vancouver, has operated continuously since 1974. (B.C. Women's Provincial Milk Bank)

Alexandra Allen is a new mother who lives in Richmond. She said she has already donated 85 litres of breast milk to the bank, but is looking forward to the added convenience of a drop-off location closer to home. 

"When I've dropped off my milk, I've seen the parents picking up donated milk," she said.

"I think, my milk might be going to their baby. Those parents must be feeling so relieved. I can get a little of that joy by association by knowing I'm helping."