Breast milk bank

Agassiz Public Health can accept donations of breastmilk now

It’s a gift only a mother can give. And now local moms can easily give the gift of a healthy start in life.

Thanks to the addition of a padlocked freezer at Agassiz Public Health, nursing mothers can donate their breast milk for babies in need. The Agassiz health unit started collecting donor milk back in April, 2014. But prior to the padlock, they had to transport the milk to Chilliwack before the end of the day. In mid-January, the health unit got a lock on the freezer and are ready to accept as much milk as the freezer can hold.

“We are so appreciative of any mom who wants to make this gift to share,” says Kim Roberts, supervisor of population and public health for Hope and Agassiz.

The Chilliwack Health Unit has been collecting locally-donated milk since 2003. Since then, Fraser Health has been working to make every health unit a milk collection depot. The milk gets sent to BC Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, where one of only three human milk banks across Canada is located (one is in Ontario and one is in Alberta). The milk is pasteurized and made available to NICU units throughout B.C. Chilliwack General Hospital does not have a NICU unit but is able to access milk from the B.C. Women’s Milk Bank for local babies in need of help.

Donor milk is used to help treat babies who are premature, have infections, problems digesting food, allergies, burns, growth problems, kidney problems, heart problems, and other cases such as helping babies heal after surgery. The number of babies who receive donor milk depends on the number of donors.

According to the BC Women’s Milk Bank, most mothers whose babies are born premature have a difficult time establishing enough milk production for their baby’s needs. sometimes the mother is ill and the baby, or may be on medications that don’t permit her to feed her milk to her baby. Human milk contains antibodies that fight infection as well as growth hormones which help babies grow and develop.

“It’s so important to provide milk for those little babies,” says Roberts, and adds that for the mothers who donate, it makes them feel really good to share “this wonderful gift.”

According to the Milk Bank at BC Women’s Hospital, since opening in 1974 they have processed approximately 43,000 litres of milk and screened more than 4,000 donors.

Locally, collected more than 11 liters of milk has already been collected. Now that they have a padlock on their freezer, they’re hoping to get even more Agassiz, Harrison and area moms to be involved in this program.

New donors are are always needed as the demand for milk is high and often exceeds supply, according to the BC Women’s Milk Bank. There is a screening process for potential donors, including a verbal and written questionnaire, blood work and consultation with the woman’s doctor or midwife. Donors must be healthy, be nursing a baby who is less than one years old, be a nonsmoker and non-drug user. For more information, see www.bcwomensmilkbank.ca or contact Agassiz Public Health at 604-793-7160.

edited Thursday, Feb. 12