The Calgary Mothers' Milk Bank is now operating. They currently have 35-40 donors but will need "about 10 times that amount." About 50,000 babies are born in Alberta each year and 8.7 per cent of them are pre-term births. The milk bank will mainly provide milk to premature babies and babies who "have a rough start." In addition to being life-saving at birth, there are larger spin-offs for the health care system as human milk provides life-long health benefits.
The cost is still being worked out; so far donor milk is only available by prescription, and Festival says if families need milk and their health insurance won't pay for it, there will be a cost. Festival is asked by the interviewer if the cost should be publicly covered and says, "it's just as much a medicine as it is a food."
This is the second human milk bank to open in Canada since milk banks were shut down in the 80s due to fear of AIDS. Festival says there will be more with Toronto expected to open within the next year or two.
Donors are screened similar to the way blood donors are screened. Festival says they start with a questionnaire, blood tests for various diseases and a form that needs to be signed by a doctor to confirm mothers are healthy and are good candidates to donate.
Festival talks about a very special group of donors, mothers whose babies have died. Festival says these women have been in the NICU and see how sick the babies there are, and understand how important human milk is to their survival. Their milk is still there even after the baby dies and the milk bank gives them an opportunity to put it to good use.
Alberta Primetime - Calgary Milk Bank: Calgary Milk BankOriginal Air Date: Thursday, April 12, 2012... interview with Jannette Festival, lactation consultant and the executive director of the Calgary Mothers' Milk Bank.