Tag Archives | Milk Banking

New JHL Paper Calls for Standardization of Data on Human Milk Banking

By Monica Buchanan, Media and Public Relations Manager, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center

Photo by Mistel de Varona

Photo by Mistel de Varona

Most healthcare professionals know the health benefits of human milk for infants admitted to the NICU are well documented.  Human milk not only provides essential nutrients, but also helps build immunities in this fragile population.

Unfortunately, most mothers of NICU babies may be unable to provide some or all of the milk their infant needs.  However, the use of donor human milk (DHM) in the NICU setting provides an opportunity for very low birth weight infants (<1500 grams) to receive the valuable benefits of human milk.

While donor human milk undergoes extensive screening and testing to ensure its safety, a first-of-its-kind study by the Connecticut Human Milk Research Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, published in the Journal of Human Lactation (JHL), has found a serious lack of standardized data among donor milk banks across North America.  Human Milk Banking Association of North America-affiliated milk banks do not collect consistent data regarding milk donors and milk bank operations.  The authors of the study conclude that “this lack of standardization and transparency may deter implementation of donor milk programs in the neonatal intensive care unit setting and hinder benchmarking, research and quality improvement initiatives.”

Dr. Elizabeth Brownell, Director of the Connecticut Human Milk Research Center, and her colleagues also found a consistent lack of data available to hospitals who offer a donor milk program.  There is no consistent definition, collection, or management of data among milk banks and a clear lack of transparency.  Again, this is not an issue of the milk’s safety, but rather one of failing to obtain critical information about how milk is categorized and distributed across the United States.

This becomes problematic when you consider that many hospitals offering a donor milk program don’t buy milk from the same milk bank, which could mean milk from Bank A may not be defined in the same way as milk from Bank B.  Of note, the study finds the definition of preterm milk varied between milk banks.

In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration recognized the need to develop a centralized registry to collect and disseminate standardized data.  This registry still does not exist.  Dr. Brownell suggests HMBANA- affiliate milk banks work with leadership and/or academic researchers to develop this registry as soon as possible.  Accountability by the FDA could help expedite this process.

Because donor milk use in NICU’s across the country is expanding rapidly, this study highlights the increasing importance of monitoring its infrastructure and reporting outcomes.  It also suggests standardizing data collection among all milk banks, storing it in a central repository, and distributing that information to stakeholders and hospitals.

The full article may be accessed by JHL subscribers HERE.

Buchanan, Monica (1)Monica Buchanan is the Media and Public Relations manager at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She joined the corporate communication department in August 2013. Monica transitioned into the PR world after spending nearly 10 years in local news. She was most recently an investigative reporter with WVIT- NBC CT in West Hartford, CT. There she covered major political stories involving corruption at Hartford city hall, covered Superstorm Sandy and the October snowstorm that devastated the Northeast. Monica began her news career as a general assignment reporter for WCTV in Tallahassee, FL in 2004 and has lived in Valdosta, GA and Sarasota, FL as well. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Florida with a degree in broadcast journalism and is a wife and mom to son Brandon.

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“World Day of Human Milk Donation” – An International Effort!

By Maryanne Perrin, MBA

I spoke with Dr. Danielle Aparecida da Silva of Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (equivalent to the Food and Drug Administration in the USA) to learn more about the upcoming “World Day of Human Milk Donation” which will be celebrated on May 19, 2013.  Aparecida da Silva is in charge of processing and quality control for the national reference center which supports milk banks throughout Iberoamerica and Africa.

A Day to Promote Milk Donations

DonateMilk(Brazil)PosterSince 2004, Brazil’s Human Milk Bank network (Bancos de Leite Humano or BLH-BR) has held an annual “National Day of Human Milk Donation” to promote the importance of giving milk.  This campaign involves selecting a “godmother of donation” who is usually an actress, singer, or other public figure (a few years ago it was volleyball players on the Olympic team) to bring awareness regarding the importance of donating milk to save the lives of thousands of premature babies. In 2010, Brazil began discussions with their partner countries in the Iberoamerican Program of Human Milk Banks (IberBLH) about hosting a “World Day of Human Milk Donation” which is celebrated on May 19 by Brazil and 23 other countries. This date was chosen because it is the date of the signing of the “First Letter of Brasilia,” a document to form international cooperation in milk banking. On May 19, the IberBLH member countries will promote the idea that when you donate milk, you donate life.  This year’s theme is “Give Milk, Life Thanks” and the campaign will use radio, television, posters, and community events to raise awareness of the import role that milk donors play.

About Brazil’s Milk Bank Network

brazil

Dr. Danielle Aparecida da Silva

In the 1980s, Brazil created breastfeeding promotion policies that focused on two objectives: providing breastfeeding support to mothers, children, and families and managing the human milk banks to ensure a quality product.  The combination of breastfeeding support and donor milk banking is based on the notion of human milk as a functional food that is important for decreasing neonatal morbidity.  In 2012 Brazil’s breastfeeding promotion center provided breastfeeding support to almost 1.6 million women, collected approximately 160,000 liters of donor milk throughout their 212 milk banks, and supported 167,000 premature infants. In 2007, Brazil was instrumental in forming the IberoAmerican Program of Human Milk Banks for the exchange of knowledge and technology related to breastfeeding and milk banking with other countries.

The Importance of Donor Milk on a Global Level

According to the World Health Organization over 1,000,000 babies die every year from complications associated with prematurity, and it is the leading cause of death for infants under 4 weeks old.  What kind of global impact could we have by making donor milk available to fragile infants worldwide who don’t have access to their mother’s milk?  The cooperation of the Iberoamerican network in creating awareness about the need for milk donors is an important first step. Imagine if 50 countries participated in the 2014 “World Day of Human Milk Donations” and 75 countries the following year? Congratulations to Brazil and their Iberoamerican partner countries for highlighting donor milk as an important piece in the overall strategy to improve global infant health!  

What efforts are going on in your country to raise awareness about donor milk banking?

MaryannePerrin3-2Maryanne Perrin loves all things related to food: growing it, cooking it, eating it, and now studying about it at the molecular and cellular level.  She has a BS in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and enjoyed a variety of career paths (information technology, management consulting, stay-at-home-mom, entrepreneur) before returning to school to obtain a PhD in Nutrition Science. She was quickly captivated by the amazing story of human milk and is focusing her research on understanding the nutritive and immunoprotective value of donor milk beyond one year postpartum.  When she’s not studying or helping ILCA with social media, she likes playing in the woods with her husband, three kids, and the family dog.  

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Myth Busting the Milk Banks: The Top Four Misunderstandings about Milk Banks

Recently we started a conversation within the IBCLC community about milk banking.  This post is dedicated to clearing up some common milk banking misunderstandings. IBCLCs and others who support breastfeeding families can be important advocates and the issues surrounding milk banks are very relevant to your practice. A study in Brazil showed that the top reason mothers donated milk was that it was recommended by a health care professional so this is certainly an area where IBCLCs can have an impact regarding improving access to the gold standard of infant nutrition – human milk.

By Frances Jones, RN, MSN, IBCLC 

Does milk keep its healthful properties when pasteurized?

pumped milkThere has been quite a bit of discussion about the impact of pasteurization on human milk’s “miracle” properties. Milk banks provide milk to the most fragile infants and cannot risk even the every-day types of viruses that mom’s own baby could tolerate. The Holder Pasteurization method, used by HMBANA milk banks, impacts some of the biological activity of the milk, but many of the compounds unique to human milk are retained either completely or partially.  Studies show that Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) that contribute to gut development and pathogen binding are retained, and partial amounts of antibodies and antimicrobial proteins also remain.  Researchers are studying other pasteurization techniques, such as ultrasonication, high-temperature short-time, and microwaving, that would allow even more of the beneficial elements to be preserved while continuing to ensure the product is free of pathogens.

Related to this issue, we are often asked about whether or not “raw” milk is better for babies. Yes –milk directly from the breast of the baby’s own mother is absolutely the best choice! Policies and practices in the United States and beyond must continue to focus on supporting and protecting women to breastfeed their own children. Every HMBANA bank supports breastfeeding as a central operating principle. Pasteurized donor human milk is the alternative after mother’s own milk.

What does it cost to process human milk and how is this cost passed on to the consumer?

Some donors confuse the milk processing charges of non-profit HMBANA milk banks with the profit-motive of for-profit pharmaceutical companies. HMBANA banks operate on very tight budgets, relying on grants and charitable donations to provide their service to families whose infants’ lives may depend on the milk. The milk processing fee charged to the family (and, in some cases, covered by their medical insurance) only partially covers a milk bank’s operating costs.  Clearly, the fee for pasteurized donor milk in North America is a barrier to access for some and HMBANA leaders are working behind the scenes to shape health reform laws so all insurance companies cover this medical expense.  In Brazil, where the milk banks are part of the government health services, pasteurized donor milk is dispensed via prescription at no charge to the recipient. Access to human milk is an important public health initiative and future policies and programs should reflect this.

Can families who don’t have babies in the NICU access milk from HMBANA milk banks?

Photo by bgreenlee via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by bgreenlee via Flickr Creative Commons

While critically ill infants are the first priority for milk banks, when adequate donations are available, HMBANA banks provide for infants whose mothers are ill or deceased, toddlers with medical conditions, and even adults.  Donor milk is dispensed via physician’s prescription.  Last year, demand shot past supply, and as word continues to spread about the benefits of donor milk, HMBANA banks routinely experience low or empty freezers.  The more regular donors HMBANA has, the better equipped they will be to meet the needs of all who could benefit from donor milk.

How can IBCLCs support families in donating to HMBANA milk banks?

Currently, there are 13 HMBANA milk banks serving all of North America and more are opening each year. The first thing you can do as someone who supports breastfeeding families is to identify which HMBANA milk bank serves your community. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to contact HMBANA directly. If you are fortunate enough to have a bank close to you, please direct families to contact them for information about donating. For out of town donors, nearly all HMBANA banks will provide coolers and pay the shipping costs to have milk sent overnight to the bank for processing. In an upcoming blog post, we’ll discuss the requirements for donation and interview a current donor to a HMBANA milk bank about her experience. 

IMG_3767Frances Jones is the Coordinator of the Lactation Services and Milk Bank at British Columbia Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Frances has worked with breastfeeding families for over thirty years and has been running the milk bank since 2000. She is the author of the HMBANA’s Best Practice for Expressing Storing and Handling Human Milk in Hospitals Homes and Child Care Settings and has spoken at many conferences on breastfeeding and milk banking topics. Most importantly, she is the mother of five sons and grandmother of one granddaughter – all breastfed. 

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Getting Human Milk to Human Babies: The Role that HMBANA Milk Banks Play

One of the wonderful things about the internet is having access to so much information. Need a recipe, driving instructions, or a referral for an electrician? It’s a click or two away.  The downside is that information isn’t always complete or accurate, and misinformation can spread.  The amount of media attention on the sharing of human milk has exploded in recent years leading to a certain amount of confusion.  We caught up with Frances Jones, Executive Director of BC Women’s Mothers’ Milk Bank in Vancouver, Canada and president-elect of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) and have developed this “Milk Banking 101” blog in order to clear up some confusion about non-profit milk banks and open a conversation within the IBCLC community so that IBCLCs are positioned to support the choice that best meets the needs of breastfeeding families and their babies. We hope you’ll join in this conversation!

By Frances Jones RN, MSN, IBCLC

Photo used with permission from Indiana Mothers' Milk Bank

Photo used with permission from Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank

Background on Milk Banking

The first milk banks came into existence in the early 20th century as food technology evolved allowing for successful storage of human milk. Even in those early banks, donors and their milk were carefully screened. Fast forward to the 80’s and a post-AIDS era of caution. Those of us who believe in the power of human milk formed the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) to ensure safe standards for all donor milk banks in North America. The HMBANA guidelines, developed with the assistance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), have been used globally in the development of nearly all milk banking standards and are reviewed annually to ensure safety.

Milk that is subject to storage and transportation is not the same product as milk that is consumed straight from a mother’s breast (which is why Louis Pasteur is considered a founder of disease-prevention-science for figuring out how to reduce the pathogens in milk and wine through a technique that still carries his name today). HMBANA’s safety steps include screening donors through interviews and blood tests (for HIV, HTLV, syphilis, hepatitis B and C), pasteurizing the milk, testing for pathogen growth, tracking milk and implementing mock recalls.  Milk banks put huge effort into ensuring donor human milk is safe for the most vulnerable of infants.

Photo used with permission from Indiana Mothers' Milk Bank

Photo used with permission from Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank

What is the Difference Between “Milk Banking” and “Milk Sharing”?

Milk banking involves donating human milk to an intermediary (similar to a blood bank) who ensures the safety of the product and distributes it to those in greatest need.  Milk sharing involves sharing human milk with sisters, neighbors, and friends, and is a practice that has been going on for centuries as mothers have helped each other.  Today, the Internet has changed the way we communicate, enabling a rise in milk sharing outside of our closest circles. This capacity for expanded milk sharing may increase the risk associated with the transmission of disease and contaminants (e.g. drugs and alcohol). Several health authorities including the FDA, AAP, Health Canada as well as the French government have expressed concern over Internet milk sharing.

When supply is scarce, as it has been in recent years with a growing demand for donor milk,  HMBANA banks are limited to serving the most vulnerable and critical babies in our communities. In 2010, the CDC reported over 325,000 low-birth weight (LBW) births in the United States, of which over 55,000 were very low birth weight (VLBW) babies, weighing less than 1.5kg.  In 2011, HMBANA banks collected a little over 2 million ounces of donor milk, which averages only 7 ounces per LBW/VLBW baby. We simply need more milk to be able to meet the needs of these vulnerable infants. We recognize that many non-NICU infants (and even some adults!) would benefit from donor milk and that the cost of pasteurized donor milk in North America is a barrier to access for some (which is one of the factors contributing to the rise in milk sharing). This is why HMBANA supports many families through charity care and our leaders are working behind the scenes to try to shape laws so donor milk is covered by more insurance companies.  In Brazil, where the milk banks are part of the government health services (in contrast to the practices in North America), pasteurized donor milk is dispensed via prescription at no charge to the recipient. Access to human milk is an important public health initiative and future policies and programs should reflect this.  In the meantime, the more milk that HMBANA banks collect, the more families can be served.

What is the Difference Between Non-Profit Milk Banks and For-Profit Pharmaceutical Companies?

HMBANA defines a milk bank as  ”a service established for the purpose of recruiting and collecting milk from donors, and processing, screening, storing, and distributing donated milk to meet the specific needs of individuals for whom human milk is prescribed by health care providers who are licensed to prescribe.” There are also “milk depots” which are locations that collect and store milk and then transport it to a “milk bank” for processing and distribution.  These terms are used loosely and some sites that are actually depots label themselves as milk banks.

Increasingly, our non-profit milk banks have faced competition for donors from for-profit pharmaceutical companies that solicit donor milk and turn it into high-end products.  HMBANA milk banks are non-profit and keep processing costs associated with safety protocols as low as possible.  For-profit companies sell their products at a profit while relying on donor mothers to provide the raw human milk for processing. HMBANA banks count on additional funds through grants and in-kind donation to continue operating. Private companies must achieve profit from their products to satisfy investors.  Many IBCLCs and others who support breastfeeding mothers are confused because some of the for-profit collection sites have names that seem to indicate that they are association with non-profit banks (e.g. Milk for Wishes Milk Bank, Helping Hands Milk Bank). Ambiguity can sometimes mislead and confuse donors. Every donor should understand who is receiving their milk and what will be done with it (read this great blog post by a mom who felt misled regarding the generous donation of her milk).

IMG_3767Frances Jones is the Coordinator of the Lactation Services and Milk Bank at British Columbia Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Frances has worked with breastfeeding families for over thirty years and has been running the milk bank since 2000. She is the author of the HMBANA’s Best Practice for Expressing Storing and Handling Human Milk in Hospitals Homes and Child Care Settings and has spoken at many conferences on breastfeeding and milk banking topics. Most importantly, she is the mother of five sons and grandmother of one granddaughter – all breastfed. 

In our next blog we’ll tackle some misunderstandings about milk-banking.  If you have questions you’d like answered, please leave a comment and we’ll do our best to find answers.  We’d love to hear about the resources you feel would help you to provide mothers with good information regarding their options when they have extra milk or are seeking milk for their infants. We look forward to continuing this conversation.

* A special THANK YOU to Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank for permission to use their photos. For more of their photos, check out their Instagram profile.

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The Power of Milk Donation at Milk Matters in Cape Town, South Africa

By Louise Goosen, RN, RM, IBCLC

Put a group of enthusiastic “Lactavists” in a room, give them a challenge and WOW, there is no holding back!

The story of Milk Matters Milk Bank in South Africa started 10 years ago at Mowbray Maternity Hospital in Cape Town where two of the  founding members were employed part time as lactation consultants. With the support of our colleagues, we collected 20 liters of milk only to discover, to our horror, that no one was interested in using our precious bootie … not surprising when the HIV rate in the country was over 25%.

Soon, our modern day hero, Dr Allan Horn, a neonatologist from Groote Schuur Hospital, heard about our precious milk. He was eager to use our pasteurised milk as he believed it could make a difference to the unacceptably high mortality and morbidity rates of the micro-premature babies in his unit. He was right and soon two other hospitals were requesting donor milk.

Those were small beginnings. We have since registered as a Public Benefit and Non Profit Organisation, improved our donor and milk screening techniques, developed posters, pamphlets and promo videos, sent regular articles to magazines and newspapers, developed a website, and established a presence on Facebook and Twitter. This has enabled us to dramatically increase the Milk Matters donor base. Subsequently, our processing rate has grown from one liter per week to almost six liters a day and it is still not enough. We supply donor milk to four large neonatal intensive care units on a daily basis and 24 other hospitals when the need arises.

Although we started “giving our milk away” at no charge, this had to change and we are now forced to charge a processing fee in an attempt to recover some of our costs. Our sustainability would not have been possible if it were not for the founder members who still offer their services voluntarily.

There is plenty still to be done. In a developing country where the exclusive breastfeeding rate at 6 months is a mere 8%, we could never rest on our laurels. The need to increase our breastfeeding rates as a nation is paramount. Donor breastmilk must never be viewed as a replacement for mother’s own milk, but it does fill the gap when ill health prevails or when mothers need the time to build up their own supply.

Encouraging all mothers to consider the impact of human milk is critical. Crippling, outdated information that “forbade” HIV+ mothers to breastfeed has changed and HIV+ mothers are now actively encouraged to breastfeed while they and their babies have access to antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment. Twelve months ago, our National Department of Health called on each and every one of us to reinstitute breastfeeding as the norm in our communities. What’s more the Department is encouraging the establishment of donor milk banks throughout the country. Milk Matters has already helped in the setting up of 5 other milk banks and more are in the developmental stages. Our latest invite is from further afield, Malawi, a fellow African country to the north of us.

Milk Matters continues to reach out as the approximately 50 babies that we are feeding every day or 1,500 babies that we are feeding every month isn’t enough. Many more need access to their own mothers’ milk and that is where our true mission lies.

Please visit us on the web at www.milkmatters.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/milkmatters.

Louise Goosen’s full time career in breastfeeding started in 1986 when she also ran birth preparation classes for 7 years. She qualified as an IBCLC in 2003. She has been a member of the South African Breast Feeding Association for the last 30 years and been chairperson for over 10 years. Since its inception in 2002, she has been an active member of the South African Kangaroo Mothercare Foundation (KMC). After ten years at Mowbray Maternity Hospital as the resident IBCLC and BFHI co-coordinator, trainer and assessor, she has taken up the voluntary position as chairperson of the breastmilk bank, Milk Matters. She is also still involved with breastfeeding and KMC training for medical, physiotherapy, dietetic and nursing students.

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Bryson’s Legacy: A Story of Milk Donation and the Love of a Family

Those who attended the 2012 ILCA Conference had the wonderful privilege to view a video presented by Ryan Comfort, of Milk for Thought, which told the story of Amy and Bryan Anderson and their son, Bryson. There was an intense emotion in the room as they shared of their milk donation since his birth and death and we wanted to offer an update of their journey.


Amy shared with us the following: 

Bryson’s legacy begins eleven years after I fell in love with my high school sweetheart. We had been married for five years and were already the proud parents of two precious children. Our firstborn, Brody, was a passionate 3½ year old boy. And our Joey Skylor was born into heaven in December 2009 for unknown reasons early in the second trimester. Our family felt prepared for the additional joys and love that a new baby would bring, so we were all overjoyed with anticipation to find out we were expecting a baby boy due to arrive March 28th, 2011. However, the Lord had special plans for our precious baby Bryson.

After a month of constant medical interventions to save our son from the complications of a rare condition called LUTO (Lower Urinary Tract Obstruction), Bryson went home to join Joey on heaven’s playground.  It was a beautiful, sunny and windy day on that October 30th, 2010 at 1:04pm when I finally stopped trying to hold onto my baby boy as his body was torn from mine.  It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, relax and let go of my precious baby, whom I had been incessantly praying for and loving for what seemed like an eternity…  I remember as soon as I felt him leaving I bawled and tearfully called out.  I was hopeless and helpless.  My whole body shuttered with the reality of what was happening.  I just wanted him back, I already missed him so badly.

My husband and I were beyond ourselves, completely lost in our grief and despair and yet so proud of our son’s journey/life.  Daddy noticed how he already resembled his big brother especially in the brow… that warmed our hearts.  What a beautiful and fragile baby he was… I can only imagine how gorgeous he is in heaven, no longer weakened by his delicate body.  Bryson’s body was 13oz and 10in of perfection, with 10 tiny fingers and toes with nails already formed on them.  I fondly remember watching him on the dozens of ultrasounds we had… he certainly was a fighter and a persistent little one, much like his mommy.  His personality was very strong and he had every intention of being a significant part of our family and our hearts… in that respect his life was a complete success!  He has made a huge impact in the lives of many.

As we heard at the conference, Amy began pumping and donating her pre-term milk. Their “Donation Through Grief” has totaled 3,239 ounces of milk to Mother’s Milk Bank of New England and 8,523 ounces to Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohiothat’s nearly 92 gallons of breast milk! Bryson’s milk was literally sent all around the country and even around the world.

Amy and Bryan are currently involved in advocating for bereaved parents by educating medical professionals and the community at large in how to care for those who have lost infants, especially in terms of lactation options after a stillbirth or earlier loss.  Amy says,

I’m persistently advocating to amend the US federal law “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The law is intended to support appropriate break time for expression as needed at work for “nursing mothers”.  However, this verbiage has made it possible for my place of employment to say that the law doesn’t apply in my situation because I don’t have a nursing baby, therefore am not considered a “nursing mother”.  Regardless of the fact that my body was lactating uncontrollably even though my baby was not at home to latch on.  My goal is for the law to pertain to any “lactating women”, so employers cannot use the law to discriminate against a bereaved mother whose already experiencing unfathomable grief.

So far I’ve been completely unsuccessful with getting the attention of any of my state representatives, the Department of Labor has directed me to my local La Leche League, and the White House has also yet to reply to my e-mails (lol, yup, I even reached out to the president/first lady).  My best bet so far is to get as many people as possible to hear my Bryson’s legacy.  People need to know lactation can happen even after only 20 weeks gestation (and even earlier), and that donating their baby’s breastmilk is a precious, much appreciated gift that gives meaning their baby’s short life and helps with the grief process.  I’ve already recieved a few responses that our story inspired a couple other moms to “Donate Through Grief” which is huge to me (though I understand it’s a very personal choice, the option needs to be available to the mom).  

At Lactation Matters, we are proud to share Bryson’s story and know that there are many in our community who would have unique insight for the advocacy that the Andersons are pursuing.  Please contact Amy at aranderson33@gmail.com if you’d like to help take up the cause.

Have you worked with bereaved mothers to donate milk? How has this practice positively impacted them?

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World Breastfeeding Week: More babies are receiving donor human milk in Canada

By Jodine Chase

It’s been almost two years since the Canadian Pediatric Society called for a network of donor human milk banks across Canada to join the country’s single milk bank in Vancouver. Now, across the country, more babies have the option of donor human milk when mother’s milk is not available.

Photo via Calgary Mother’s Milk Bank

The British Columbia (B.C.) government has plans to build on the long-established milk bank at the Baby-Friendly-certified B.C. Women’s Hospital. They sent representatives to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America conference earlier this year and are exploring an expansion of milk banking throughout the province. A Donor Breast Milk Dispensary has opened at Chilliwack General Hospital. And Breastfeeding Matters South Vancouver Island is now raising funds to support the shipping of donor milk from Vancouver Island to the mainland for processing.

Photo via Calgary Mother’s Milk Bank

The country’s second milk bank, serving all of Alberta, opened in Calgary in the fall of 2011, bringing much-needed donor milk to babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) to that province. This summer, Edmonton’s Grey Nuns hospital announced the launch of a collection depot for Edmonton donors. The depot allows mothers an easy place to drop off frozen milk to be shipped to Calgary for processing. The announcement came after a successful fundraiser by the Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton (BACE) and strong support from Edmonton neonatologists Dr. Shariff Shaik and Dr. Ramneek Kumar.

Long-time breastfeeding advocates Johanna Bergerman, Janice Reynolds and Wendy Stefiuk of Saskatchewan also attended the HMBANA conference in Las Vegas this spring. A Saskatoon Health Region Baby Friendly Coalition working group that includes neonatologist Dr. Koravangattu Sankaran and staff from the NICU at the Royal University Hospital are exploring the feasibility of milk banking in that province.

Photo via Nancy Holtzman

Toronto has been a HMBANA developing milk bank for several years now and is close to opening. The Ontario Donor Human Milk Bank recruited a part-time coordinator last fall. Pediatrician Dr. Sharon Unger told a US FDA committee last year that two hospitals, Mt. Sinai and Sunnybrook, currently use donor human milk and all NICUs in the area are participating in a randomized control trial on the use of donor human milk. A quiet fundraiser has been operating on the Sunnybrook website to raise money for the project.

There are two efforts underway in Quebec currently and it is expected a milk bank will be operating soon in that province.

Although more babies are receiving donor human milk, there are still many areas of the country where donor milk is not currently available. Physicians and hospitals outside of Alberta, B.C., and the Toronto area can place orders from the country’s two operating milk banks, and parents who have funds to pay the processing fees and shipping can purchase milk with a doctor’s prescription from Vancouver and Calgary, if it is available. In the meantime, there are a number of robust milksharing communities active on Facebook and the Internet – Human Milk 4 Human Babies operates community sites on Facebook in all provinces and Territories, Eats on Feet has some less-active chapters in some areas, and MilkShare is active in Montreal.

Jodine Chase owns a public relations firm that specializes in news analysis for a select clientele. She is a longtime breastfeeding advocate with five children and three grandchildren. She has provided a variety of news briefing services for the breastfeeding community and currently curates Human Milk News, and is list mother for several information sharing lists in Alberta relating to efforts to re-establish donor human milk banks.  She joined the Alberta Breastfeeding Committee in 2011 and her focus has been providing support to develop ABC’s communications strategy. She is a founding member of the Breastfeeding Action Committee for Edmonton (BACE), Human Milk for Human Babies, and a supporter of the nascent Calgary Mother’s Milk Bank in Alberta. Her most recent campaign has seen her take on the removal of breastfeeding photos on Facebook.

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