There are many health benefits to breastfeeding your baby, and breastfeeding is strongly recommended by healthcare professionals. However, in some special situations, there may be unique challenges to breastfeeding your baby. As parents, you may look for alternative sources to mother’s own milk to feed your baby. Please view the information sheet below for further information.
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Sometimes women have questions about human milk donation and further information can be found through the following link.
There are many health benefits to breastfeeding your baby, and breastfeeding is strongly recommended by healthcare professionals. However, in some special situations, there may be unique challenges to breastfeeding your baby. As parents, you may look for alternative sources to mother’s own milk to feed your baby.
The safest alternative to mother’s own milk is pasteurized donor milk from a regulated human milk bank. These milk banks take steps to screen milk donors, and safely collect, process, handle, test, and store the milk. At this time, breast milk acquired by the IWK from a regulated human milk bank is restricted to those babies who are considered most vulnerable, such as preterm infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
The choice to feed your baby human milk from a source other than the baby’s mother should always be discussed with your baby’s healthcare provider. The nutritional needs of each baby are different and depend on many factors. It is important to discuss all nutritional options for your baby with a healthcare provider to make an informed decision. If you choose to use breast milk from another source you need to be aware of any potential risks to your baby. Healthcare providers can help you to make an informed decision, and can discuss information on the risks and benefits of all infant feeding options, including the use of donor milk.
If you are considering feeding your baby with human milk from a source other than the baby’s mother, you should know that there are possible health and safety risks for the baby. When human milk is obtained directly from individuals or through the Internet, the donor may not have been screened for infectious diseases or any other contamination risks. It is also possible that the milk may not have been collected and stored in a way that reduces safety risks to the baby.
Potential risks for the baby include:
If you choose to obtain milk from someone you know personally (e.g. sister) it is important for both parties to discuss with a healthcare provider how proper testing can be done on the breast milk donor before any milk exchange begins, and how the donor can take steps to maintain the safety of the breast milk produced and donated over time. It is recommended that donors be screened by a healthcare provider for HIV, human T-lymphotrophic virus, Hepatitis B and C prior to any breast milk donation.
If after talking with your baby’s healthcare provider, you decide to feed your baby with human milk obtained from an unknown, unscreened source (e.g. breast milk that has been purchased online) please ensure your healthcare provider is aware as there may be additional steps that will be required for storage and handling of the milk during your baby’s care in the hospital. Please discuss this with your healthcare provider.
Approximately 375 breast surgeries will be performed annually at the IWK, with approximately 3,000 visits to the Breast Health Clinic.