About NorthernStar

Our agency recruits and screens breastfeeding mothers. These donors drop off their excess milk, and we test, pasteurize and distribute it to sick and fragile babies in hospitals and in the community. Learn more about us.

There are two hospital-based HMBANA milk banks in Canada:  B.C. Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, BC and Rogers Hixon Milk Bank in Toronto, ON. We are the only community-based, non-profit milk bank in Canada.

We operate on a cost-recovery basis with a dispensation fee applied to each bottle of pasteurized donor human milk. We rely on grants and the generous donations of community partners and the public to help keep the costs of milk to a minimum.

About Donor Human Milk

Pasteurized donor human milk is mothers’ excess breast milk which has been donated to the milk bank. The donor mothers have been screened for disease, the milk pasteurized and tested for bacteria and then is dispensed to babies-in-need.

Yes, pasteurized donor human milk is safe. Since the inception of our professional organization, HMBANA (Human Milk Banking Association of North America), there has never been a report of disease transmission or harm to a baby from properly pasteurized donor human milk from a milk bank. However, like any food, the risk of adverse events, even though very small, can never be stated as zero.

From our recruitment and selection of donor mothers, to our state-of-the art lab, we’re committed to the highest safety standard in our field.

Each bottle from every batch is traceable from donor to recipient.  Additionally, we maintain records of all donors and recipients for 21 years. Donor and recipient records are kept and confidentiality is strictly maintained in accordance with the Personal Information Protection Act of Alberta.

Frozen Donor Human Milk is thawed, pooled and poured into bottles. It is then pasteurized using the Holder method. The pasteurized donor human milk is quickly cooled and frozen at -20 C. Samples from individual donor moms’ deposits prior to pasteurization, and from each batch of milk after pasteurization are tested by an independent lab. The tests are done to detect heat resistant pathogens, and confirm zero growth of bacteria after the heating process. The pasteurization process strictly follows the guidelines set forth by HMBANA.

Donor Human Milk is pasteurized to ensure a safe product for the babies who will receive it. The Holder method kills bacteria and inactivates many viruses that could be found in raw milk.

The majority of the nutritional and immunological properties are retained after Holder method pasteurization.

Pasteurized donor human milk is packaged in 120ml plastic bottles. Bottles are heat sealed and labelled with the expiration date and batch number.

Milk Donors

Milk Bank donors are healthy, conscientious women who provide their milk for selfless reasons. They are most often:

  • Nursing their own babies (who are under one year of age) and have a milk supply that’s abundant enough to donate their excess
  • Women that have given up their babies for adoption or acted as a surrogate
  • Mothers who have lost their baby

Donor mothers are screened for their medical and lifestyle history. There is a verbal screening and written questionnaire, as well as a document completed by the donor’s health care provider. Donors are also required to have a blood test. To see the donor screening process in action, please view our video.

From Heaven! Okay, maybe not.

But our donors do come from across Canada. We have Milk Drops in various locations across Alberta and other provinces for approved donors to drop off their milk. For donor moms not near a Milk Drop, shipping may be arranged by the milk bank. For mothers located in the Calgary area, we welcome their smiling faces and look forward to capturing a photo of their drop off on our Facebook page.

Due to the cost of screening and pasteurization of donor human milk, we ask that each donor commit to donating a minimum of 4.5 litres (150 ounces).

Yes. All donors receive instructions on the collection and handling of their milk. Donor mothers inform us if they become ill or have any change in their health status or medications, to determine whether or when they can continue to donate their milk.

Yes. During the time of donation, donor mothers cannot regularly use certain medications or herbal supplements. For medication exceptions or deferral periods please contact the milk bank.  

No. Unfortunately, we are not able to accept milk from donor mothers who regularly take fenugreek or other herbs or medications to increase milk supply.

No. Sterilized, food-grade, rigid plastic containers are best. Milk stored in milk storage bags can also be donated. Baggies should not be used. Hard plastic, pre-sterilized storage containers are available free of charge to donor mothers, and can be picked up at our main centre or from one of our Milk Drops.

During your verbal screening you will be asked about the collection of this milk and we will provide information regarding its eligibility.

No. All milk donors are volunteers who donate for selfless reasons. We do not provide financial compensation in any way for donor human milk donations.

Contact NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank using this form. Follow these steps to becoming a donor.

Yes. There are a variety of other ways to Get Involved.

Recipients

The milk is dispensed by prescription only. Milk is triaged to neonatal intensive care units (NICU) first and is then available to the community when inventory allows.

While the milk is donated by our generous donor mothers, we do have operational costs that ensure every ounce of milk is safe to be received by a fragile infant. This dispensation fee covers the cost of:

  • wages for employees
  • shipping milk to the milk bank from milk drops or other locations
  • paying rent for our office and lab space
  • purchase and maintenance of lab equipment
  • bacterial testing
  • the bottle in which the milk is dispensed
  • milk collection containers provided to our donors

 

Volunteers and financial donors help us provide services at a greatly reduced rate to help keep the cost of the milk as low as possible.

A hospital can call, fax or email NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank to place an order for milk.

A prescription is required for donor human milk. Please contact us.