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BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank

We screen milk donors, and collect and heat-treat (pasteurize) donated milk and distribute it to hospitals in BC.

Bottles of donor milk 

Milk from a baby’s own mother is always the first choice. When her milk isn’t available, donor milk is the next best thing. Donor milk has active beneficial properties and is similar to mother’s own milk. It provides babies with antibodies to fight disease and infection. Human milk is best for all babies. It is especially important for sick and very tiny babies.

The demand for milk is high and often exceeds supply. New donors are always needed.

About the Milk Bank

The BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank, located at BC Women's Hospital in Vancouver, BC, Canada has operated continuously since 1974 and is a founding member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

During our years of operation we have helped thousands of babies and children, screened over 4,000 donors and processed 43,000 litres (1.5 million ounces) of milk. The need for milk continues to increase so we are always looking for new donors.

The Milk Bank is expanding! 

Most of the milk is given to sick or very tiny babies in neonatal intensive care units. Currently, donor milk is available to babies in Royal Columbian Hospital, Surrey Memorial Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital. Our plans are to expand to the rest of the neonatal intensive care units in the province over the next few years. 

Advisory Committee

The BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank Advisory Committee reports to the Acute Perinatal Program Leadership Committee – it is responsible for advising on operational, quality and other issues concerning the Milk Bank.

The Advisory Committee for the BC Women’s Milk bank consists of representation from:

  • Coordinator Lactation Services/Milk Bank (Chair)
  • VP Acute Perinatal program
  • Senior medical director, Acute Perinatal program
  • Division Head Neonatolgy
  • Pediatrics, BC Women’s
  • Manager, Acute Perinatal Program
  • Pediatrics, Infectious Diseases
  • Clinical Coordinator, Nutrition Services
  • Social Work
  • Quality Risk Management
  • Director, Hematology (ex-officio)
  • President, BCW Administration ( ex-officio)
  • C & W Infection Control Services –Practitioner (ex-officio)
The BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank is overseen by the Milk Bank Coordinator, a Registered Nurse and lactation consultant. Donor screening is completed by nurse/lactation consultants who work in the BC Women’s Lactation Service & Provincial Milk Bank. The processing and physical allocation of milk is done by milk bank technicians who work in the Milk Bank which is on-site at BC Women’s Hospital.

For more information, please contact us.

Please note that we do not provide medical advice via e-mail. We strongly recommend that you discuss your health questions and concerns with a qualified health care provider.

The BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank is proudly affiliated with the following organizations:
Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions
The following are some frequently asked questions about the BC Women’s Milk Bank and our processes. Have a question that’s not on the list? Please contact us.

The majority of donated milk is used to feed premature and sick babies who are at high risk for illnesses and infections. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating bowel disease, is 10 times more common in premature babies fed formula compared with those babies fed human milk. The majority of mothers whose babies are born premature struggle to establish their milk production and keep it going well enough to meet their baby’s needs. Sometimes the mother is ill as well as her baby or may be on medications that don’t permit her to feed her milk to her baby. Human milk contains antibodies that fight infection as well as growth hormones which help babies grow and develop. Donating your extra milk is truly a gift that lasts a lifetime!

Please check donating milk to see if you meet the requirements to donate milk. If you do, please fill in this form or call us and leave a message at 604-875-3743. We will call you back as soon as possible. We  appreciate your call.
Before attempting to drop off milk to a milk collection depot, you must call the depot that you plan to use to confirm times and location for drop off. If you plan to courier, please call BC Women’s Hospital Provincial Milk Bank at 604-875-2424, local 7634 to confirm times and courier arrangements, before calling the courier.
If you live in Greater Vancouver, we can usually make arrangements to get the donor milk to our Bank. If greater distances are involved please contact us. Although we appreciate offers from mothers living in the United States, we cannot accept the milk because we cannot complete the screening process.

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide pumps or bottles.

The time it takes to collect milk varies. Some mothers find that if they pump 30 to 60 mls.(1-2 ounces) each day they have enough milk collected within several weeks.
Mothers need to be certain they meet the needs of their own infant first. Because of the cost of screening, we screen mothers only when they are able to donate at least 4-5 litres (150 oz.) of milk by their child's first birthday.The donation can be given in a number of donations or all at one time.

Human milk is pasteurized to ensure a safe product. Pasteurization maintains most of the anti-infective properties of fresh human milk.


Donors complete a short verbal and written questionnaire. Their doctor or midwife is consulted and blood tests are done at a local lab. The blood tests include: HIV-1, HIV-2, HTLV-1, HTVV-2, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.


Please wait 12 hours after having alcohol before pumping milk for the milk bank.

Please wait 12 hours after having alcohol before pumping milk for the milk bank. 

Unfortunately no. Medications taken regularly disqualify you as a donor.


Use of an asthma inhaler is acceptable for milk donation.


This exclusion is based on theoretical risk of CJD (mad cow disease). Your milk is fine for your own baby but just like blood donation, certain travels increase your theoretical risk of developing CJD. Because our milk is going to vulnerable infants, this exclusion criteria is applied.


Donors are healthy mothers who have completed the screening process. They are able to produce more milk than their babies need. 

Processing milk is a muti-step labour-intensive process. The steps include:
  • Donor screening
  • Delivery of milk: receiving, testing, logging & storing unprocessed milk in the freezers
  • Bacteriological screening: sample is sent for testing
  • Preparation for pasteurization: defrosting milk, scrubbing for processing, preparing the pasteurizers and milk
  • Pasteurizing: placing the bottles into the pasteurizer & removing on completion of a cycle
  • Quality control measures: temperature monitoring throughout process, drying, sealing and labeling bottles
  • Bacteriological testing: sending one bottle of milk from each batch for testing
  • Cleaning:  all equipment and preparation area
  • Documentation: completing all the recording of donors, number of bottles, batch numbers, pasteurization temperatures.
  • Storage: placing milk in appropriate freezer
  • Distribution: reviewing all completed lab reports and distributing processed tested milk to selected neonatal intensive care units and babies living in the community that require donor milk
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SOURCE: BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank ( )
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