We began as the Calgary Mothers’ Milk Bank in 2012, headed by nurse and lactation consultant (IBCLC), Jannette Festival and her business partner Anne Marie O‘Gorman (former CFO of STARS Air-Ambulance).
Working at the Foothills Hospital as a lactation consultant, Jannette observed the use of donor human milk in the NICU. At the time, Alberta did not have a donor human milk bank and milk was flown in from Canada’s only milk bank at BC Women’s & Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. Often milk was not available to the Foothills NICU due to shortages within BC’s own province.
The two made several trips to the Mothers’ Milk Bank in Austin, Texas to understand their successful community-based milk banking model. With a similar population and demographics to Calgary, Jannette and Anne Marie decided to replicate the model.
Presentations were made to local physician groups, hospitals and management teams within Alberta Health Services. Board members and a Medical Director were recruited and committed to help launch the milk bank. After 16 months of research, planning and mentoring from the Austin team, the milk bank opened for business on April 1, 2012.
The Foothills Hospital NICU was the first hospital in Alberta to accept our milk. Since then, we have experienced outstanding growth, with our donor-base, our milk supply and in our work across Canada. Many milk drops have opened in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba to accommodate the collection of milk from donor mothers in these provinces.
In 2015, we unveiled the next step in our growth: a new name. As the NorthernStar Mother Milk Bank, we’re committed to serving sick and fragile babies across Canada.
Of course, our story has been possible thanks to our milk donors, financial donors and our community partners. The journey continues!