It Takes a Village: All About NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank

It Takes a Village: All About NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank

At Lil Helper, we are thrilled to welcome NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank on the blog this week to share what they do. Many of Lil Helper Ambassadors have donated to the milk bank and we believe the work the milk bank does is invaluable. We believe in supporting families, its why we make our waste free products, and this community who supports each other and provides breastmilk to other mom’s in need is absolutely incredible. Read on to learn more about the milk bank and what they do!


About NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank

NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank (NMMB) is one of Canada’s 4 human milk banks. Three of the milk banks belong to a professional milk banking association called the ‘Human Milk Banking Association of North America’ (HMBANA). The other milk banks are in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. What makes NorthernStar unique is that it is not located in or run by a hospital. NMMB is in the community and serves all hospitals in Canada that do not have a milk bank in their province as well as babies at home. We believe and science supports that human milk is the best option for any baby and that all babies have the right to the life-saving nutrients of pasteurised donor human milk.

Who donates breastmilk?

Milk bank donors are health conscientious individuals donating milk for selfless reasons. Our donors typically breastfeed their own baby and have excess to feed other babies in need. To become a donor you must be:

  • in good general health and able to pump or hand express your milk
  • nursing a baby who is less than one year old, this is inclusive of bereaved or surrogate mothers
  • willing to have a blood test to rule out certain diseases
  • not regularly using certain medications or herbal supplements
  • not using tobacco or cannabis products of any kind
  • willing to donate at least 4.5 liters before their baby reaches one year of age

Potential donors are screened with an initial 15 minute verbal screening over the phone, fill out a questionnaire, have their health care provider complete forms and have a blood test done.

Approved donors collect their milk at home and deliver it to the milk bank or drop it off at one of the locations throughout the prairie provinces.

What happens after breastmilk is donated?

The frozen milk is sorted by the date it was pumped and grouped into 1.5 liter deposits. It is thawed and then combined with 2-3 other donors to create batches. Each batch is pasteurized (heated to 62.5 C for 30 min) to destroy any harmful bacteria while keeping most if the milks nutritional components and immune factors. The milk is then frozen and then dispensed to 31 hospitals as well as babies at home.

Why milk banks matter

There are many benefits of pasteurized donor human milk. It is very easily digested by your baby with little waste, it lowers infection rates, promotes growth and maturation of the digestive tract, decreases length of stay in the hospital as well as decreased incidence of feeding intolerance and diarrhea. Feeding your baby your own milk is always best and any donor can contact us for help for increasing or decreasing your supply.

NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank is not just about milk banking, it is about our breastfeeding community and moms supporting and helping each other. Milk banking does not work if you do not have a strong breastfeeding community. NorthernStar works to promote breastfeeding, bring mothers together through our free breastfeeding classes and Baby/Breastfeeding Café.

How you can help

You can help our mission by becoming a milk donor and helping to save a life. If you don’t have milk to donate please consider becoming a financial donor by helping with the financial costs of the milk for a sick baby who has been discharged home and still in need. NorthernStar operates as a charity and requires financial aid to run our labs, hire and train competent staff to maintain the quality and safety of the milk. For more information on milk banking you can visit our website at www.northernstarmilkbank.ca.

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