Where's the milk depot?

A Penticton woman is calling on Interior Health to join the rest of the province and open a breast milk depot in the region to allow mothers to donate to the Women’s Provincial Milk Bank.

Interior Health is the only health authority without a drop-off point for women who want to donate their milk for premature babies across B.C. in neonatal intensive care units.

Jennifer Waid gave birth to a surrogate baby in April. After providing for the child for a month, the baby’s parents took it back to New York with them.

Waid didn’t want her life-giving milk to go to waste, but came up against a system in the Southern Interior that makes it impossible to donate regularly.

“We are just talking a couple freezers and someone to handle the intake, it's not a big thing that anyone is asking for,” Waid said, explaining the costs of shipping the milk herself is in the hundreds of dollars. “I can’t do this all by myself.”

“Everyone once and while you hear a story about the provincial milk bank being in crisis, because they never have enough,” she added.

In the absence of a milk depot, Okanagan Breastfeeding organizes a milk drive four times a year, sending a truck through the Valley to pick up donations directly from mothers on its way to Vancouver. The drive is taking place Wednesday, with stops in Penticton, West Kelowna, Kelowna and Vernon.

While Waid appreciates the outreach done by Okanagan Breastfeeding, four times a year just isn't often enough, “I’d be filling multiple freezers by then.”

Every B.C. health authority with the exception of Interior Health contributes to the system with a milk depot. Fraser Health, in fact, has 17.

Interior Health currently buys all its donor milk from Alberta, something currently under review.

“We are currently reviewing the implementation, sustainability and costs associated with signing a collaborative agreement with BC Women’s Hospital Milk Bank Program that would see IH collect milk from women, transport this milk to the BC Milk Bank, and distribute milk pasteurized by the Milk Bank to the province’s neonatal intensive care units including those in IH,” said perinatal medical director Dr. Jill Boulton in a statement.

In the meantime, Boulton says they encourage mothers in the region to donate to the B.C. system through initiatives like the milk drive.

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