Mak­ing Bank

Fort McMurray Today - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA BEAMISH To­day Staff lbeamish@postmedia.com

Breast milk do­na­tions in Fort Mcmurray help save lives of ba­bies across the province.

When Lyn­d­sey Gill’s new­born daugh­ter, Olivia, couldn’t take her breast milk be­cause it up­set her stom­ach, Gill didn’t want the milk her body was pro­duc­ing to be wasted.

Hop­ing her daugh­ter would be able to drink the milk even­tu­ally, Gill con­tin­ued pump­ing, but later de­cided to donate the milk to the North­ern­star Moth­ers Milk Bank in Cal­gary.

“My sis­ters are pre­emie ba­bies and they were in the hos­pi­tal,” said Gill. “Just think­ing about them and other moms and stuff it just made me want to donate what I had so that I could help them.”

The do­nated milk helps frag­ile ba­bies and those born pre­ma­turely. Be­cause their bod­ies haven’t fully de­vel­oped yet, putting a for­eign sub­stance like for­mula in the body can cause a neg­a­tive re­ac­tion, de­vel­op­ing in­fec­tions and the pos­si­bil­ity of surgery.

“We know if these ba­bies can get donor hu­man milk, if mom’s own milk isn’t avail­able, the chance of that oc­cur­ring is re­duced by about 70 per cent,” said Jan­nette Fes­ti­val, direc­tor of North­ern­star Moth­ers Milk Bank. “It’s re­ally sig­nif­i­cant in the health of these frag­ile ba­bies.”

The North­ern­star Moth­ers Milk Bank de­liv­ers milk to all in­ten­sive care units in Al­berta, as well as to some in­sti­tu­tions in other provinces, in­clud­ing Saskatchewan and Man­i­toba.

In Fort Mcmurray, a milk bank at the Pub­lic Health build­ing al­lows for lo­cal do­na­tions. Jen­nifer Splaine, AHS Pub­lic Health Area Man­ager for Fort Mcmurray, said hav­ing the ser­vice avail­able was an easy de­ci­sion to make.

“In 2012, Pub­lic Health started out on our jour­ney to be­com­ing a baby friendly health clinic. Part of that is to pro­tect, pro­mote and sup­port moth­ers who are breast­feed­ing,” she said. “It’s an easy pro­gram for us to sup­port and well worth it in terms of health out­comes for ba­bies in Al­berta.”

Fes­ti­val said she con­tin­ues to see a de­mand for the ser­vice. When they first opened in 2012, the or­ga­ni­za­tion dis­pensed just over 887 litres of milk. This year, they are ex­pect­ing that num­ber to be ap­prox­i­mately 5,000 litres.

Fort Mcmurray has been a par­tic­u­larly suc­cess­ful donor bank, said Fes­ti­val. In the two years it’s been open, they have had 20 to 25 moth­ers do­nat­ing an av­er­age of 15 litres, ship­ping in to­tal ap­prox­i­mately 145 litres. Most ba­bies only need 10 to 20 millil­itres ev­ery two hours.

Splaine says the num­ber of young peo­ple who have ar­rived in Fort Mcmurray and started fam­i­lies makes it a strong donor base for the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“We’re a young com­mu­nity with lots of breast­feed­ing fam­i­lies,” she said. “It just makes sense for us to be able to have an op­por­tu­nity to donate to ba­bies in Al­berta who are re­ally sick and in need of hu­man milk.”

Like Gill, many women may not be able to breast feed their own chil­dren for a va­ri­ety of rea­son. In some in­stances, Splaine said, she has heard sto­ries of women who have had a still­birth or a baby pass away, but still want to hon­our that life.

“There’s lots of dif­fer­ent rea­sons why moms donate,” she said. “It’s just re­ally special for us to be able to have a site here to make it con­ve­nient for moms to get in­volved.”

To be a donor, moth­ers must have ex­cess milk and their baby must be un­der a year old. A screen­ing process in­volv­ing ver­bal con­ver­sa­tions, forms signed by their doc­tor, a ques­tion­naire and blood req­ui­si­tion is re­quired, said Fes­ti­val.

The milk will re­main good for a year as long as it is kept at -20 C.

Gill was able to donate reg­u­lar and dairy-free milk to the milk bank in Fort Mcmurray.

Gill said she was happy to see her milk go­ing to ba­bies in need, es­pe­cially the dairy-free milk she was able to donate.

“There was ac­tu­ally a baby in need of it right away,” she said.

(TED RHODES/CAL­GARY HER­ALD)

Cal­gary Mother's Milk Bank ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Jan­nette Fes­ti­val holds a tray of pas­teur­ized breast milk in front of a fridge full of bags of the raw prod­uct Fri­day April 27, 2012.

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