Breast milk donors needed in Fraser Health region

Sidney Harper, lead nurse of the FHA
Sidney Harper, lead nurse of the FHA's Baby Friendly Initiative program, chats with nursing mom Nicole Morison as she feeds two-month-old Dexten at the Chilliwack Health Unit. Below is a sample of donated breast milk.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Donating breast milk can save a baby's life, and the Fraser Health Authority is appealing to breast-feeding women with surplus milk to donate it to the breast milk depot at the Chilliwack Public Health Unit.

"It's the ultimate Christmas gift," Sidney Harper, lead nurse of the FHA's Baby Friendly Initiative program, said Wednesday.

There are some 17,000 babies born in the Fraser Health region every year, she said, and sometimes mothers can't produce enough breast milk, or for medical reasons some infants may need donated breast milk.

"Rather than offer an artificial formula, we'd rather give them pasteurized donor milk," Harper said.

The challenge is keeping BC Women's bank well-supplied.

"The more donors we can get in our community," Harper said, "the greater our chances of gettingĀ pasteurized milk back to our hospital."

Breast milk contains antibodies that fight infection, and growth hormones which help babies grow and develop.

The World Health Organization's Baby Friendly Initiative aims to encourage the practice of breast feeding.

Harper said many women want to breast feed, but may not get the societal support they need or find they are unable to produce enough of their own breast milk.

Fraser Health officials wanted to help those women and their babies, so decided to set up join the Baby Friendly Initiative and set up breast milk donor "depots" across the region.

"Artificial formula is never as good as breast milk," Harper said, because it is naturally designed to nourish human babies without upsetting their delicate digestive and immune systems.

Donors are pre-screened and the donated breast milk is pasteurized and given to babies on a doctor's prescription, with priority going to the neediest.

To donate, or for more information call 604-875-2282.

Other milk bank depots in the region are located at the Abbotsford Public Health Unit, Maple Ridge Public Health Unit, Surrey Memorial Hospital and the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

For more general information about milk banks go online to the BC Women's Milk Bank and the WHO's Baby Friendly website.

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