By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: July 9, 2018
Squamish moms are spreading their motherly love all across the province—and they are doing so with their own breast milk.
From August 2016 to May 2018, five local moms donated 88.9 kilograms of breast milk to Vancouver Coastal Health’s donation site in Squamish which opened in 2016 and operated out of the health centre on Hunter Place, behind Nesters.
One among those moms is Jenn Lasek.
Lasek used to work at a mid-wife clinic in Vancouver and had referred clients to donor milk. After seeing first-hand the families and babies who benefited from donor milk, Lasek said she always thought she would donate milk when she had her own children.
“I was also lucky that my body responded well to pumping which made it easy so really, it was a no-brainer and I was able to donate both of my babies’ extra milk!” she said.
She said moms who can produce more milk than is needed can see this as a ‘wonderful gift’ they can give to babies in need. “I’d always think about how many tiny little tummies could be filled with each pumping session,” she said.
The demand for donor milk is most acutely felt in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) and the NICU unit at the Lions Gate Hospital, which have used 71,490 gm of pasteurized human donor milk so far. In August 2016, Vancouver Coastal Health opened several breast milk depot sites in Metro Vancouver, including one in Squamish at the Squamish Community Health Centre on Hunter Place.
“I’d always think about how many tiny little tummies could be filled with each pumping session.”
VCH is encouraging eligible women to drop off their extra, raw, frozen milk at the site. The milk is stored in a freezer until enough is collected to be transported to the BC Provincial Milk Bank at BC Women’s Hospital. The depot site is also affiliated with the Provincial Milk Bank, which screens prospective donors, testes the raw milk before processing and distributing across local and other hospitals.
Donor breast milk is an excellent alternative when mothers own milk is not available, and more so for premature and sick babies in hospital as it significantly reduces the risk of a potentially deadly condition called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) which causes bowel tissue death – the second most common cause of morbidity for premature infants.
Donor milk is also used for many other purposes including feeding intolerance, failure to thrive, post-surgical treatment, and to provide breast milk for babies whose mother may not have enough supply when a baby is in hospital. “We know human milk is the best food for babies, but some new mothers face challenges that prevent them from breastfeeding,” says Maureen Lister, Public Health Nurse.
“Donor milk has active beneficial properties and is similar to mother’s own milk. It provides babies with antibodies to fight disease and infection, which is especially vital for premature or babies battling medical conditions.”
According to Vancouver Coastal Health, there is a need of more donors as the demand for human donor milk far exceeds the supply that is available in the province. If you are interested in becoming a breast milk donor, you can call the BC Women’s Milk Bank at 604-875-2282. The Squamish site can be reached at 604-982-2293.
You can also read more about how to donate breast milk at www.bcwomensmilkbank.ca.