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Receiving Milk

Milk from a baby’s mother is always the first choice. When mother’s own milk is not available, donor milk is the next best option. It provides babies with antibodies to fight disease and infection.
About Donor Milk

About Donor Milk

We follow the Human Milk Banking Association of North America Guidelines. All donors and their milk are screened. Only healthy breastfeeding mothers who are non-smokers and have a healthy lifestyle are accepted as donors. Milk is also heat-treated and tested.

How are milk donors screened?

Before accepting mothers as milk donors, they are screened by:

  • Asking them questions about their health and lifestyle.
  • Asking their doctors questions about their health.
  • Testing their blood for infection, including: HIV (also called Human Immunodeficiency Virus), HTLV (Human T-Lymphotropic Virus, related to HIV), syphilis and hepatitis.

Who gets donor milk?

Pasteurized donor milk is provided to babies who need it the most. A prescription from a doctor or registered midwife is required.

Hospitals may also order donor milk. Please see the Health Professionals page.

Does donor milk cost anything?

Donor milk is provided to your baby at no cost while in hospital. After leaving the hospital, if donor milk is still required, a fee is charged. This fee helps to cover the costs of processing. The current cost for donor milk is $5 for 120 mL (4 ounces).

Does the milk bank ever run out of milk?

Our supply depends on how many donors we have. If supply is low we prioritize providing milk for the sickest babies. Every baby using donor milk needs to have another feeding plan in case supply is low and we cannot provide donor milk.

Milk After Discharge

Receiving Donor Milk After Discharge From the Hospital

If donor milk is required after your baby leaves the hospital, a prescription from your doctor or midwife needs to be faxed to the Milk Bank at 604-875-2371. If your baby is still in hospital, please ask the staff to attach the Fax Cover Sheet – Getting Donor Milk Post-Discharge.

A fee will be charged for donor milk after discharge from the hospital to offset the costs of milk processing. The current rate is $5 for 120 mls (4 oz.)

Donor milk is provided to babies who need it the most. Our supply depends on how many donors we have. When our supply is low, we may not be able to meet all requests. Every baby using donor milk needs to have an alternate feeding plan.

Watch our video on how you can receive donor milk.

Two ways to get milk from the BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank:

Pick it up at BC Women's in Vancouver

Or

Have it sent by courier to your home (this option is available if you live outside the Greater Vancouver area or your milk order is for 50 bottles or more). 

Option #1: Pick-up at BC Women's in Vancouver

1Call the Milk Bank

BEFORE going to the site, call the Milk Bank at 604-875-3743. 

If you do not call ahead, we will not have donor milk waiting for you.

Hours for placing orders: 8 am to 12 pm, Monday to Friday (closed stat holidays). 

2We Check if milk is available

The Milk Bank staff checks that there is milk available. You will be asked for your credit card number to pay for the milk. Your receipt will be with the milk.

3Pick up your milk

Pick-up hours: 8 am to 4:00 pm, Mon-Fri (closed stat holidays).
Location: Milk Bank Reception Desk located in the main lobby across from the BC Women's Auxiliary Gift Shop at the Main Outpatient & Visitor Entrance (#93), BC Women's, 4500 Oak Street in Vancouver, ph.: 604-875-3743.

Enter off Oak Street, take a right turn and drive around the ring road to the BC Women's Main Entrance Door #93. The Milk Bank staff will suggest where to park. View wayfinding map

Enter the lobby. Go to the Milk Bank Reception Desk.

Option #2: By courier to your home (paid by you)

1Call the Milk Bank

Call the Milk Bank at 604-875-2424, local 7634.

Hours for placing orders: 8 am to 12 pm, Monday to Friday (closed stat holidays).

2

We Check if milk is available

The Milk Bank staff checks that there is milk available. You will be asked for your credit card number to pay for the milk. Your receipt will be with the milk.

3Confirm your pick up date

Confirm the date with the Milk Bank before arranging for courier pick-up.

4Call your courier

Call your courier and provide the pick-up date and location for the milk:

Pick-up 9 am - 12 pm only, Mon-Fri (closed holidays).

Courier Pick-up location: 

Provincial Milk Bank, Room D106
(Basement, Shaughnessy Building)
BC Women's Hospital
4500 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC, V6H 3N1
Phone: 604-875- 2424, EXT. 7634
Storing & Preparing

Storing and Preparing Donor Milk at Home

How do I store frozen pasteurized milk?

Store pasteurized milk in a freezer until it is used. Milk can be stored in a fridge freezer with a separate door for 6 months or in a deep freeze for 12 months. Check your expiration date.

How do I prepare frozen milk for my baby?

  • It is best to thaw milk in the refrigerator, This takes about 12 hours. Milk that was previously frozen can be kept in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Once thawed, do not refreeze milk.
  • Breast milk that has been frozen and thawed may smell different to fresh milk and have white flecks. This is normal.
  • Avoid wasting milk. Keep the main container of milk in the fridge and feed your baby an ounce or two at a time from a separate container such as a cup or a bottle. You will soon learn how much your baby likes at each feeding.

If you need to thaw milk quickly:

  • Tighten the cap on the bottle of milk and hold the bottle under lukewarm running tap water OR
  • Stand the bottle of milk in a cup of warm water (use warm not hot water). Water level should NOT touch the bottle cap.
  • Do NOT microwave or heat milk directly on stove!

After thawing:

  • Tighten the cap on the bottle.
  • Shake the bottle gently so that the fat mixes with the milk.
  • Warm the milk to room temperature immediately before feeding.
  • If your baby does not finish the warmed milk at that feeding, throw it out.
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