Red Deer now has a drop-site established for breastfeeding moms to donate their excess milk for babies in need.
Through a partnership with Alberta Health Services and the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank, mothers can now drop off their excess milk to be collected, pasteurized and distributed in hospitals. The Johnstone Crossing Community Health Centre is the first location in Red Deer to offer a drop site for mothers’ breastfeeding milk.
This announcement marks the fifth milk drop site in Alberta under the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank group.
“As Canada’s only community-based milk bank, we feel it’s our responsibility to provide these milk drops. Here, moms in the community of Red Deer can provide donor human milk to be donated to babies in need in hospitals,” said executive director of NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank Jannette Festival.
Festival said each of the approved donor mothers goes through a thorough screening process, but most woman can apply to be a donor.
“Moms need to be healthy and be breastfeeding their own baby. They need to have excess milk that can be supplied to other babies. They are screened and that screening involves a verbal interview over the phone and a blood test, among other tests,” Festival said.
“The mother would visit with her health care provider and once all this information is passed back to the milk bank where we review her file, we can accept her as a milk donor if she fits the criteria.”
Festival explained approved mothers will generally pump a little bit every day, freezing the milk until they have accumulated approximately 150 oz., or 4.5L of milk. Once the freezer at the Johnstone Crossing facility is full, a courier from Calgary will pick up the milk and bring it to the NorthernStar Mothers Milk lab.
“We’d hope to see thousands of donors – the more the better,” Festival said.
“We find when we open up these milk drops there is more information getting out to moms about how valuable their milk is for their own baby, as well as other babies in need whose mothers can’t provide milk.”
The milk is used most often for prematurely born babies. Festival explained the natural human mother’s milk is more easily accepted by the babies’ bodies compared to formula.
Gwen Ganske is a local mother who has contributed to the program, saying she wished she had the same options for her now seven month old son, Sullivan Woitowicz. Her son had been born premature.
“Supplementing my son with formula was not something I wanted to do, but was something that was kind of forced upon me because there wasn’t an option. If we could get more moms to donate and increase the supply, it would be so much better for those babies,” Ganske said.