Kamloops gearing up for human milk drive

By Tanya Cronin
November 9, 2016 - 4:59pm Updated: November 10, 2016 - 11:11am

KAMLOOPS — Breast milk can be life-saving for premature or sick babies, but often mothers struggle to establish their milk production and keep it going well enough to meet their baby's needs. 

The supply of donor milk to Interior hospitals comes from out of province, but supply is decreasing. 

Kamloops is gearing up for a milk drive to collect as much human donor milk as possible, to send to the BC Women's Milk Bank in Vancouver, and help Neonatal Intensive Care Units across the province.

There's said to be magic in a mother's touch, even if they need a little extra help. In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the smallest, sickest babies receive special care from professionals, but also from complete strangers.

A mother's breast milk is always the first choice, but donor milk can be a life-line for babies in the NICU whose own mothers can't produce enough of it. Giving these tiny humans the best start to their lives. 

"Human breast milk is the optimum source of nutrition for a baby and it contains important antibodies to help fight infection and disease. So the Canadian Pediatrics Society recommends that when a mother's milk is not available for their hospitalized child, pasteurized human donor milk is the next best choice," says Simone Jennings, Public Health Dietitian, Interior Health. 

But that donor milk is not always easy to come by. Supply at the Provincial Milk Bank at BC Women's Hospital is reaching low levels, and there's an urgent plea for milk donation. Which is why Kamloops is holding its second human milk drive on December 1st, aiming to collect 200 pounds.

"I think that's a really good solid number, our last event was 104 pounds, so a little shy but that was exclusively from 5 moms which was incredible, it was such a gift they could provide for our milk bank," says Joanne Juras, Public Health Nurse, Interior Health.

The majority of mothers whose babies are born premature struggle to establish their milk production, and keep it going. Breastfeeding Matters in Kamloops is encouraging women with an excess supply of breast milk, to get pre-screened and drop off their frozen milk.

"One of the largest barriers for moms is actually going down to Vancouver and being able to bring their milk down there. We were brainstorming and thought if we did a drive where we would provide the shipment costs for moms they would be able to get screened through the milk bank independently on their own. Then once they're screened and the process was followed through, we would collect their milk on a designated day and ship it down there."

The donated milk is tested, carefully pasteurized, and tested again. It not only contains antibodies, but breast milk also provides growth hormones helping with early development. Increasing the usable supply for NICUs is critical for the most fragile babies across BC.  

"I think it would be stressful for a mother if you can't provide your child with your own milk, so this would help alleviate some of that stress by providing the next best choice," says Jennings.

The human milk drive in Kamloops will be held on Thursday December 1st. Kamloops mothers who are interested in donating can drop-off their milk at Lizzie Bits on Victoria Street. For more information about the drive and pre-screening process, contact Kamloops Public Health at 250-851-7300. 

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