Sullivan had multiple health factors associated with his very early delivery. His mom, Emily, also experienced complications during her pregnancy including preeclampsia and severe back pain. After delivery, what was thought to have been a slipped disc in Emily’s back, was diagnosed as three large cancerous tumours.
Unfortunately, with Emily’s serious health complications and her starting chemotherapy treatments after Sullivan born, the decision was made to put Sullivan on pasteurized donor human milk from NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank (formerly Calgary Mothers Milk Bank).
With Emily and Sullivan each receiving treatments in different hospitals, Justin was unable to continue working. Emily was undergoing chemotherapy while Sullivan had multiple operations associated with his premature delivery. Sullivan relied on pasteurized donor human milk to provide not only nutrients, but also protection to his fragile immune and gastrointestinal systems. Due to Sullivan’s long-term hospital stay, he surpassed the age that the hospital would cover donor human milk, leaving his dad Justin to cover the cost. Justin reached out to NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank and was accepted into the Charitable Care program to ensure Sullivan would continue to receive the life-saving donor milk his body needed free of charge.
When Sullivan turned 10 months old, he lost his mom to cancer.
Shortly after, Sullivan was able to leave the hospital and be at home with his dad. Because of his long term intubation, Sullivan built-up scar tissue in his esophagus causing it to narrow, making swallowing difficult. As a result most of his caloric intake was from pasteurized donor human milk through a tube in his stomach. He continued to receive donor human milk until he was 18 months old.
We encourage you to watch the beautiful video on Baby Sullivan and learn more about our Charitable Care Program by visiting our website.
While the average term infant weighs approximately 7 and a half pounds, the smallest premature infants may weigh just over one pound. These babies are too small to breastfeed and are often faced with health challenges. As advocates and champions for healthy babies, we believe, and science endorses, that human milk is the best option for any baby and that all babies should have access to life-saving donor human milk. We screen breastfeeding mothers as milk donors, accepting their excess milk as donations to be pasteurized in the laboratory, tested for bacteria and dispensed to sick babies in hospitals and in the community.
Research shows “that when the mother’s own milk is unavailable for the sick, hospitalized newborn, pasteurized donor human breast milk should be made available as an alternative feeding choice ” (Canadian Pediatric Society; 2016). Pasteurized donor human milk provides the healthiest option to newborns and premature babies who spend time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Many sick and fragile babies depend on the immediate access to donor human milk for its life-saving health benefits.
For women who cannot nurse as a result of a low milk supply, necessary medication usage, illness, adoption or surrogacy, we make it possible for all at-risk Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) babies to receive human milk.
There are currently two other milk banks, located in Vancouver and Toronto, however these milk banks are run out of provincially funded hospitals and almost exclusively service babies admitted within the hospitals they serve. As a community-based milk bank, we operate independently of the provincial health care system and can serve babies who wouldn’t otherwise have access to donor human milk.
Our Vision: to connect donor human milk with as many sick and fragile babies as possible.
Our Results: Since opening our doors in 2012, we have undergone substantial growth. Along with the statistics provided below, ten Milk Drops have also opened across Canada.
2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Number of Milk Donors 217 230 451 650 812
Number of Hospitals Served 8 14 17 20 22
Ounces of Milk Dispensed 33,000 65,000 98,600 133,956 126,676
NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank is leading the country in providing sick and fragile babies with life-saving breastmilk. In addition to pasteurizing donor human milk, we also offer Breastfeeding classes, Lactation Consultant Advice and provide a service to Bereaved mothers aiding in the healing process after a loss.
Dispensing safe pasteurized donor human milk is our highest priority. We take numerous steps to ensure all babies receive safe human milk that retains the many benefits of human milk. NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank adheres to the strict guidelines set forth by HMBANA (Human Milk Banking Association of North America). The pasteurization process can also be viewed in the video “Milk Journey”.
Breastfeeding Basics Classes: Monthly free prenatal breastfeeding class intended to give parents the tools to navigate the first few weeks with their newborn. Skills and strategies such as breastfeeding positions, proper latch, feeding frequency, when and where to get help, troubleshooting and common concerns, are all areas that our lactation consultant (IBCLC) will address.
Lactation Consultant Services: Members of our staff are certified lactation consultants (IBCLC) who are readily available to answer any questions or concerns our donors have regarding breastfeeding their babies.
Bereavement Donation Program: Some of our mothers who donate milk are going through a very difficult time as they were not able to bring their precious baby home with them. After a loss, milk production still continues and mothers have choices on how to manage their supply. Donating their breastmilk after the loss of their baby is an option that we provide. Donating milk often gives purpose to bereaved mothers knowing that their milk is helping other babies, and creating a legacy for a lost child can be a step in the healing process.
For more information on our programs, please contact us at 403-475-6455 or email [email protected].
We rely on the generosity of individuals and corporations in order to continue our life-saving program. Financial assistance as well as volunteers are an integral part of our success in helping sick and fragile babies.
As a non-profit organization, we do not receive any government funding. We operate on a cost recovery basis. Hospitals pay a dispensation fee which includes the cost of screening, pasteurizing and testing the milk. This does not include any costs incurred by our Charitable Care Program (see below), organization growth, equipment replacement, staffing needs outside of laboratory services, breastfeeding classes and materials, advertising and awareness campaigns. We must raise a minimum of $150,000 annually to cover these additional operating costs.
Once babies leave the hospital, the cost of human donor milk is no longer covered by the hospital. Although the recipient might still be sick and still require donor human milk, the families are then left to cover the dispensing cost. In these cases, charitable care is available. This fund, which is generated solely from individual, family and corporate donors, ensures families have access to donor human milk for their baby. 100% of funds raised for charitable care are used to cover the cost of milk for families in need.
We are thankful for the generous donation of our volunteers’ time. Volunteers allow us to keep our milk costs as low as possible, as well as keep our day-to-day operations running smoothly. Our volunteers are involved in numerous activities, including:
We also look for individuals who would be interested in joining our Ambassador Program. NorthernStar Ambassadors are our voice in the community. They are donor mothers, recipient mothers, nurses and volunteers who help us share our story in the community. They have first-hand experience and knowledge of the life-changing benefits of donating human donor milk.
If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us at [email protected].