By Rhonda Massad
Héma-Québec has opened the first mothers’ breast milk food bank in Quebec. As of May 20, infants born extremely prematurely have had access to donated breast milk.
Hospitals such as Laval’s Cité de la santé superhospital have partnered with Héma Québec for donation and distribution. Participating hospitals are recruiting for the milk bank at the same time as they take registration for their public blood bank. That will permit mothers who plan to give birth to sign up for both at the same time.
Non-smoking mothers in good overall health who want to donate their milk must be nursing and able to produce extra milk and meet other eligibility criteria.
Once they qualify, these donors will collect and freeze their milk at home before they send it to Héma Québec. The donated milk is then processed, pasteurized and assessed for its nutritional value.
The hospitals require more than 3,700 litres a year to meet the needs of preterm babies born at 32 weeks’ gestation or earlier, who cannot be nursed by their mother. Hospital administrators estimate that they will need 300 donors to respond to this demand.
The Héma Québec Foundation has partly funded an initial investment of $800,000 to integrate the Public Mothers’ Milk Bank into Héma-Québec’s operations. Héma Québec’s Public Mothers’ Milk Bank is the fourth facility of its kind in Canada. Three other breast milk banks are currently operating in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.
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