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Breast Milk Depot at Victoria General Hospital supports babies in need

July 12, 2016


It’s all about giving, and receiving.

Just last week, Island Health’s Victoria General Hospital (VGH) became an official Donor Milk Collection Depot for the BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank, located at BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Now, nursing mothers in the Greater Victoria area will be able to donate their milk to benefit other babies in need, here and across British Columbia.

“Nursing moms in Greater Victoria will be helping babies around the province by donating their extra milk to the provincial milk bank,” Health Minister Terry Lake said. “The milk bank makes a significant difference for families whose fragile babies need the nutrients from breast milk.”

The new breast milk depot reflects Island Health’s commitment to promote and protect breastfeeding, added Gillian Kozinka, Manager of VGH Perinatal and Neonatal Services.

“Breast milk is the optimal choice for infant nutrition,” Kozinka said. “This new program benefits the tiniest, sickest babies in need, and we are grateful to the moms who have extra to give.”

A Donor Milk Collection Depot serves a local community by providing a space for women who have been screened as “donors” to drop off their raw, frozen donor breast milk for donation.

VGH’s new Donor Milk Collection Depot will be located in the Mother Babe Unit on VGH’s third floor. Approved donors will be able to drop off frozen breast milk between 1 and 3 p.m., Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

A typical donor is a healthy woman who is producing more milk than she needs to feed her own baby. Bereaved mothers who have lost their infants also may choose to donate their extra milk.

Donors are unpaid volunteers and must go through the Provincial Milk Bank’s pre-screening process before being allowed to give milk. Screening consists of a brief telephone interview to confirm potential donors are in good health, not taking select medications and/or supplements, and willing to undergo blood testing.

VGH’s new Donor Milk Collection Depot will receive and store frozen milk, and then transport it to the Provincial Milk Bank at the BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. The milk is then pasteurized and distributed to Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) across the province.

“This is an example of evidence-based health promotion and health care delivery in action,” explained Erin O’Sullivan, Regional Perinatal Program Lead at Island Health. “A true collaborative partnership, this project involves working with childbearing women, local Public Health offices as well as community-based breastfeeding interest groups to mutually support a common goal.”

Since the BC Women’s Hospital launched the Provincial Milk Bank in 1974, it has helped thousands of babies and children, screened more than 4,000 donors and processed 43,000 litres (1.5 million ounces) of milk.

In 2012/13, the Ministry of Health provided additional funding to BC Women’s Hospital Health Centre’s Milk Bank to formally expand the program across the province in order to increase the number of donations, and the volume of available pasteurized human milk.

VGH’s Donor Milk Collection Depot is the 18th drop-off location in BC: all the others are on the mainland.

The first goal of our new depot is to promote local donations by raising awareness amongst physicians, midwives, staff and allied health and community services. VGH staff members have been trained to collect and store donor human milk.

A cost-sharing endeavour, BC Women’s Hospital will kick in funding for the freezer, required transport equipment and the first six months of transportation costs. Island Health will pay for staffing, promotions and operations throughout, and assume the cost of milk transportation in 2017. The implementation of the Donor Milk Collection Depot will include evaluation by VGH and BC Women’s Hospital, which will in turn inform further expansion efforts across the region.

Island Health's first Donor Milk Collection Depot aligns with the Ministry of Health’s commitment to promote and protect breast feeding as part of the Baby Friendly Initiative.

Interested women who would like to become approved breast milk donors should contact the BC Women’s Hospital Provincial Milk Bank at 604.875.3743 or by email:  http://www.bcwomens.ca/our-services/labour-birth-post-birth-care/milk-bank/donating-milk.  

Media inquiries:
Kellie Hudson
Media Relations Manager
250.370.8908
kellie.hudson@viha.ca