FAQ

 

About NorthernStar

Who can donate milk?


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




How are milk donors screened?


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.




How much milk is required from donors?


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).




Do milk donors follow guidelines?


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.




Are there restrictions on donor moms while donating?


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.




Can donor moms take supplements (ie: fenugreek) to help increase the production of breast milk?


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 in the form of oils, pills or capsules. However, if the herb fenugreek is used in tea it is permitted up to two cups per day.




Are special containers required for milk donation?


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.




Can I donate milk pumped prior to contacting the milk bank?


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




Are donors paid for their milk?


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.




I am interested in donating milk, what do I do?


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




I cannot donate milk. Can I still help?


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





About Donor Human Milk

What is pasteurized 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.




Is pasteurized donor human milk safe?


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.




How is donor milk processed?


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.




Why is donor human milk pasteurized?


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.




Does pasteurization harm the beneficial properties of human milk?


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




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

Who can donate milk?


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




How are milk donors screened?


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.




How much milk is required from donors?


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).




Do milk donors follow guidelines?


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.




Are there restrictions on donor moms while donating?


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.




Can donor moms take supplements (ie: fenugreek) to help increase the production of breast milk?


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 in the form of oils, pills or capsules. However, if the herb fenugreek is used in tea it is permitted up to two cups per day.




Are special containers required for milk donation?


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.




Can I donate milk pumped prior to contacting the milk bank?


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




Are donors paid for their milk?


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.




I am interested in donating milk, what do I do?


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




I cannot donate milk. Can I still help?


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





Recipients

How is pasteurized donor human milk dispensed?


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.




Why isn’t the milk free?


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.




How does a hospital order milk?


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




How do parents and families order milk directly?


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





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