The Provincial Milk Bank screens breast milk donors, collects, pasteurizes and distributes donor milk to vulnerable babies in our neonatal intensive care units.
For sick and premature babies, the early days of life can be tough as they are at high risk for infection and complications. Similar to mother’s own milk, pasteurized donor human milk has active beneficial properties, providing babies with antibodies to fight disease and infection and give babies the best chance at a healthy development.
BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank
The BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank screens milk donors, collects and pasteurizes donated milk and distributes it to hospitals in B.C. Pasteurized donor human milk is provided to vulnerable babies in our neonatal intensive care units.
If you are a healthy, non-smoking mother who has more milk than you need for your own baby, you can donate milk.
You will be asked screening questions about your medical history and lifestyle. And blood tests, done at your local lab, will be required to rule out certain diseases and infections.
Collecting and storing breast milk
Expressed milk can be stored in a bottle or bag in your freezer. Most donors set aside one time of day to express for milk donation and aim for 1-2 ounces (30-60 mL) a day.
To help offset the costs of screening, we ask each mother to donate a minimum of 150 ounces (4.4L).
When ready, frozen donor milk can be conveniently dropped off at any one of our 17 milk collection depots.
Processing and distributing breast milk
Once the milk is dropped off, it is transported to the BC Women’s Milk Bank, where it undergoes a multi-step process before touching the baby’s lips.
This process involves the following:
- Delivery of milk: receiving, testing, logging and storing unprocessed milk in the freezers
- Bacteriological screening: sending milk sample for testing
- Preparation for pasteurization: defrosting milk, scrubbing for processing, preparing the pasteurizers and milk
- Pasteurizing: placing bottles into the pasteurizer and removing them on completion of a cycle
- Quality control measures: monitoring the milk temperature throughout the process, drying, sealing and labelling bottles
- Bacteriological testing: sending one bottle of milk from each batch for testing
- Hygiene: cleaning all equipment and preparation area
- Documentation: completing recording of donors, number of bottles, batch numbers and pasteurization temperatures
- Storage: placing milk in appropriate freezer
- Distribution: reviewing all completed lab reports and distributing the processed tested milk to selected neonatal intensive care units and babies living in the community that require donor milk
In 2017, we hit record volumes of milk donations with over 2.1 million mL (71,000 ounces) of expressed milk, surpassing last year’s donations of 1.8 million mL (61,000 ounces) - a remarkable collective effort from moms across Fraser Health!
The demand for donor milk is high and often exceeds supply. New donors are always needed. Consider becoming a milk donor today.