Ontario breast milk bank calling for donations as supply for preemies low

TORONTO — Ontario’s Human Milk Bank is calling for donations of breast milk from lactating women to help save sick and pre-term babies’ lives.

The milk bank says donations decline over the summer months, so an increase in donated breast milk is needed to replenish current stocks that have run low.

About 1,500 low-birthweight babies are born every year in Ontario and many of their mothers are unable to provide adequate amounts of milk. Without donor milk, these babies are at a higher risk of developing life-threatening complications.

The milk bank collects extra milk from lactating women in Ontario, pasteurizes it and distributes it by prescription to infants in neonatal intensive care units across the province.

About 125 litres of breast milk are processed each week at the bank, housed at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Women who wish to become donors go through a screening process similar to that used for donating blood.

Mount Sinai neonatologist Dr. Sharon Unger, medical director of the milk bank, says becoming a milk donor can provide life-altering nutrition to medically fragile babies.

“While donor milk is not the same as mother’s own milk, research shows that it can protect the sickest and most vulnerable babies against a life-threatening illness called necrotizing enterocolitis — a severe bowel condition that is a common cause of mortality for pre-term babies,” Unger said in a release Monday.

For more information on donating milk, visit www.milkbankontario.ca.

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