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Island Health supports fragile babies & caregivers during breastfeeding week

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​Victoria – It’s National Breastfeeding Week and Island Health is celebrating by promoting the benefits of breastfeeding and breast milk to support families and young children, especially babies who are sick and vulnerable. 

Breast milk is the perfect food for all babies, providing optimal nutrients and antibodies to protect them and help them grow. Most mothers are able to breastfeed successfully with support from families, friends, relatives, employers, health-care providers and lactation organizations. 

However, not all moms can nurse or choose to nurse, and those with sick babies face barriers to successful nursing.  

Island Health extends the commitment to promote and protect breastfeeding by providing pasteurized donor breast milk to infants who are very sick and vulnerable. Launched in 2016, the Donor Milk Depot at Victoria General Hospital collects breast milk for the BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank.

“Breast milk is a basic building block in establishing infant health. However, we know not every baby can receive breast milk from their biological mother. Having donor breast milk available to fragile and ill newborns supports their health and growth during a critical time in life. It’s a medical and nutritional gift.” says Dr. Dee Hoyano, medical health officer at Island Health.

Healthy women with a baby up to 18 months of age are invited to donate. All women must be willing to undergo screening, including blood tests. Moms who have lost a new baby may also want to donate milk in honour of their little one.

"We're happy to see donations coming in to the depot at Victoria General," says Joanne Wooldridge, program director, Maternity and Surgical Services, BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre. "Having a depot on the island makes it easier for Island Health moms to donate and help nourish the sickest babies across B.C."

In the first year that the Donor Depot has been open, there have been 39 donors: 31 from Victoria, and 7 from Central and North Vancouver Island. More than 355 Litres of milk have been donated.

“It’s been wonderful to launch the program in the Island Health region,” says Erin O’Sullivan, Regional Perinatal program lead at Island Health. “We can now work in partnership with Island Health mothers and BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank to guarantee that the sickest babies have a safe supply of milk. Our goal is to offer services where women are supported to feel successful both in mothering and infant feeding decisions.”

Interested women who would like to become approved breast milk donors should contact the BC Women’s Hospital Provincial Milk Bank at 604.875.3743 or by email For more information, visit   

Island Health, one of six health jurisdictions in British Columbia, provides health care and support services to more than 765,000 people on Vancouver Island, the islands in the Salish Sea and the Johnstone Strait, and mainland communities north of Powell River. 

With more than 20,000 staff, 1,900 physician partners, 6,000 volunteers, and the dedicated support of foundations and auxiliaries, Island Health delivers a broad range of health services, including: public health services, primary health care, home and community care, mental health and addictions services, acute care in hospitals, and much more across a huge, geographically diverse region.

BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre; NICU; babies; donor milk
Children's Health
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