Opening of the public breast milk bank

Opening of the public breast milk bank
Opening of the public breast milk bank

For the first time in more than 25 years, mothers of premature babies will be able to offer their child pasteurized breast milk, regulated by Héma-Québec.


A breast milk bank once existed in Quebec, but following the tainted blood scandal, it closed in the 1980s. Since then, women who were unable to breastfeeding had no choice but to offer formula milk to their child. Knowing that breast milk is extremely effective in helping very premature babies, Héma-Québec has been working since 2011 on this public breast milk bank project for which a bill was passed by the National Assembly in 2013.

Why was such a bank desirable?

Breast milk contains antibodies and growth hormones that promote the development of newborns, reduce the frequency and severity of certain diseases and reduce the chances of a very premature baby suffering from birth by up to three times. severe bowel disease. For too many premature babies, this disease called necrotizing enterocolitis is deadly.

Unfortunately, the majority of mothers who give birth prematurely have difficulty producing the necessary milkto feed their child. Some do not produce enough, others are sick or on medication and are unable to breastfeed. This is why donor breast milk is so precious to them.

Who can give and receive from this bank?

The breast milk bank only targets eight hospitals in Quebec. It was created to enable them to save very premature infants aged 32 weeks and under, and for this reason, Héma-Québec does not sell or give milk to the public.

To be able to register as a donor at the Public Breast Milk Bank, you must have given birth in one of the following hospitals:

  • St. Mary's Hospital Center;
  • CHU mother-child Sainte-Justine;
  • Royal Victoria Hospital;
  • CHUQ Mother-Child Center;
  • He alth City of Laval;
  • LaSalle Hospital Center;
  • Hospital of the Sacred Heart of Montreal;
  • Lakeshore General Hospital.
However, if you gave birth in one of the eight registered hospitals, if you produce a lot of milk and want to help these mothers feed their babies, you can

registerby filling out the form you will get by calling 1-800-565-6635. You will need to go through a selection process that will determine your eligibility. Thereafter, Héma-Québec will go to your home each month to collect your milk.

The reason why only women who gave birth in these eight specific hospitals will be acceptedas milk donors is that Héma-Québec already has the existing infrastructures of the umbilical cord blood bank in these same hospitals. This situation displeasesthe Order of Midwives of Quebec and the Association for Public He alth of Quebec who would have liked all women wishing to donate their excess breast milk to be able to do it.

The milk route: how does your donation travel?

DonateMothers who meet the qualifying criteria collect their milk at home, freeze it and send it to Héma-Québec at regular intervals.

AnalysisThe collected milk is subjected to biochemical analyzes to determine its nutritional value.

PasteurizationThe milk is pasteurized to eliminate viruses and bacteria.

Processing and storageThe milk is subjected to microbiological analysis after pasteurization, then stored in the freezer.

DistributionThe milk is distributed to hospitals for the treatment of very premature babies.

The selection process

To donate milk, mothers must be he althy, breastfeeding their babies, have an overproduction of milk and be non-smokers. They must also undergo a telephone interview as well as a blood test to screen for the AIDS virus, human T-cell lymphoma, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis. Three blood tests will take place, at the interview, after six months of donation and at theend of process.

After the first blood test, Héma-Québec will provide them with bottles that must be frozen until collection. They will also receive a guide that will explain all the contraindications as well as the measures to take to properly store the milk.

Thanks to this initiative, Montreal becomes the fourth breast milk bank in the country, after Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. If you gave birth in one of the following hospitals and would like to donate milk, do not hesitate to contact Héma-Québec. You will get all the answers to your questions there.

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