British Columbia

Breast milk needed to fill shelves at B.C. Women's Provincial Milk Bank

There is only enough breast milk — 4,000 ounces — to feed babies in need for a week. Officials at the bank say up to 30,000 ounces is needed.

Refrigerators currently only have 4,000 ounces, while up to 30,000 ounces is needed

Some of the 4,000 ounces of donated breast milk currently at the B.C. Women's Provincial Milk Bank. Officials would like to have up to 30,000 ounces available. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Clio Wu was first able to hold her son, Adam, a week after he was born prematurely at 29 weeks.

Clio Wu holds her son Adam for the first time after he was born and sent to a neonatal unit. (Clio Wu)

"And he was only 2½ pounds when he was born, so that human milk is very much needed," said Wu, who was not able to produce any breast milk at the time.

We are having to tell families that ... that we cannot provide donor milk, because we just don't have it.- Frances Jones, B.C. Women's Provincial Milk Bank

So for the first month of Adam's life, Wu chose to rely on breast milk donated from other mothers to B.C. Women's Provincial Milk Bank.

"I definitely feel like it is a blessing for me and my baby," said Wu. 

Adam is now eight months old, happy, healthy and ready to crawl. Wu says she plans to give back to the milk bank by donating her own breast milk, which she is now able to produce.

Now at eight months old, Adam Wu is happy, healthy and about to start crawling. Clio Wu says she is committed to donating to the B.C. Women's Provincial Milk Bank. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

"I didn't even hesitate," she said. "Definitely my son being a recipient from donors' milk, it made it more meaningful for our personal life."

Unfortunately, not all premature or critically-ill babies are getting the breast milk their parents and care-providers want for them because the milk bank is not receiving enough donations.

Watch as Frances Jones shows the CBC's Tina Lovgreen all the empty shelves at the B.C. Women's Provincial Milk Bank:

Frances Jones says up to 30,000 ounces of breast milk is needed to meet demand. 0:30

"We are not meeting all requests," said Jones.

"We are having to tell families that we can't, particularly out patients, that we cannot provide donor milk, because we just don't have it."

Currently the bank has about 4,000 ounces of milk stored in its refrigerators. That amount will be used up in one week.

Jones says she would like to have up to 30,000 ounces on hand to meet demand province-wide, which has been on the rise since the bank began serving all of the province's 13 neonatal intensive care units.

With files from Tina Lovgreen.