Breast milk donation drop site to open

Donations will help premature and sick infants thrive

Julie Gislason and her son Brody meet health minister Sharon Blady at the launch of the new breast milk donation drop site at the Birth Centre
Julie Gislason and her son Brody meet health minister Sharon Blady at the launch of the new breast milk donation drop site at the Birth Centre.

Winnipeg Health Region
Published Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Starting in the new year, women will be able to donate breast milk at a drop site newly established at the Birth Centre in Winnipeg.

The breast milk will be processed at the NorthernStar Mother’s Milk Bank in Calgary, and then be made available for use in neonatal intensive care units across Canada, including at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital.

Julie Gislason and her 16-month old son Brody were at the launch at the Birth Centre, pleased to see the expansion of the breast milk donation program. She credits donated breast milk with helping Brody survive and thrive.

“Brody was born at 27 weeks, 2 days, and weighed two-point-seven pounds,” she says. “I work as a dietitian and understand the benefits for premature infants who are fed breast milk. It offers them immunity and reduces the chance they will develop a serious condition of the bowels. Brody received donated milk until I was able to provide my own.”

The new drop site is a partnership between the Winnipeg Health Region, the Women’s Health Clinic and the NorthernStar Mother’s Milk Bank.

Registered donations of breast milk will be accepted by the Birth Centre in Winnipeg and transported for pasteurization at NorthernStar’s lab in Calgary.

“There can be a number of reasons why a mother may not be able to provide breast milk for her baby,” said Health Minister Sharon Blady. “This new Milk Drop site will help families ensure premature and sick babies get the best possible start in life by providing pasteurized donor human milk an infant needs to not only survive, but thrive.”

The minister noted that establishing a human milk drop supports recommendations made in the Manitoba Breastfeeding Strategy, released in 2013.

The WRHA purchased a freezer for the milk drop with funds provided by the Winnipeg-based Siobhan Richardson Foundation. The Birth Centre will house the freezer and ensure the safe handling and storage of donated human milk before it is shipped to Calgary for processing.

Studies have shown premature infants who receive the nutrients of pasteurized human milk from donors, when their mother’s own milk is not available, have fewer long-term health needs. The use of pasteurized donor human milk instead of formula can reduce the risk of serious health complications in pre-term infants. Having a dedicated milk supply for these babies can save lives.

“Several health outcomes for preterm infants are improved when pasteurized donor human milk, rather than formula, is used in these high risk infants,” said Dr. Michael Narvey, section head of neonatology with the Winnipeg Health Region. “Pasteurized donor human milk has been proven to reduce the chances of an infant developing a serious condition of the bowel which can lead to lifelong and serious health consequences. Babies weighing less than 1,500 grams are significantly less likely to develop this serious condition when they are given pasteurized human milk from donors as opposed to formula.”

Starting January 4, 2016, the Birth Centre will accept breast milk from donors approved by NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank. Women must first contact the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank to be screened prior to dropping off their donation at the Birth Centre.

Women will then have further screening, including blood tests, by their primary care provider to confirm if they qualify as a donor.

“We are excited to see Manitoba’s first milk drop opening in Winnipeg,” said Janette Festival, Executive Director of the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank. “This milk drop is a testament to cooperation of multiple groups who believe in the medical power of donor human milk for babies in need. We hope this new drop will encourage women in the Winnipeg area to consider becoming a milk donor.”

Women’s Health Clinic operates the Birth Centre facility and community programming, and will be collecting the donations and shipping them to the milk bank for testing and pasteurizing.

“Women and families come to the Birth Centre every day for a range of maternal health and wellness services, making it an ideal location for the new milk drop site,” said Joan Dawkins, Executive Director of Women’s Health Clinic. “Women who are interested in donating can get the process underway now by contacting NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank.”

To donate, mothers can contact the milk bank at 1-403-475-6455 or visit

Bookmark Email Print Share this on Facebook SHARE Share this on Twitter Tweet RSS Feeds RSS
Make text smaller Make text bigger
Traditional Territories Acknowledgement
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority acknowledges that it provides health services in facilities located in Treaty One and Treaty Five territories, the homelands of the Métis Nation and the original lands of the Inuit people. The WRHA respects and acknowledges harms and mistakes, and we dedicate ourselves to collaborate in partnership with First Nation, Métis and Inuit people in the spirit of reconciliation.
Click here to read more about the WRHA's efforts towards reconciliation

WRHA Accessibility Plan Icon
Wait Times
View the Winnipeg Health Region's current approximate Emergency Department and Urgent Care wait times.

View wait times
Find Services
Looking for health services in Winnipeg?

Call Health Links-Info Sante at 788-8200

Search 211 Manitoba

Explore alternatives to emergency departments at

Find a Doctor
Contact Us
Do you have any comments or concerns?

Click here to contact us
The Winnipeg Health Region has a variety of career opportunities to suit your unique goals and needs.

Visit our Careers site
WRHA Logo Help| Terms of Use | Contact Us | En français