New and expecting mothers will benefit from a new concept cafe that just opened locally in Agassiz and Hope Health Units.
Earlier this month, the Bumps and Babies Breastfeeding Cafe started serving both Fraser Valley communities to support women with their babies and breastfeeding.
But the initiative is also an opportunity to encourage something that might not be top of mind for new mothers: donating breast milk.
“The need is huge and sometimes the donations don’t meet those needs,” said Hope/Agassiz Health Unit public health supervisor Kim Roberts. “All of the health units in Fraser Health have a drop off depot, we all have freezers to be able to accept breast milk.”
Sometimes there are financial barriers to willing donors, so one aim of the cafe is to remove those obstacles by providing a breast pump to visitors (all donors must first go through a full screening).
Donors can leave their milk with the respective Health Unit, and it will be sent off to BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank to be used as needed.
“We’re trying to normalize the whole process in getting women to donate that breast milk because it goes out to all the most vulnerable little babies in the neonatal intensive care units (NICUs),” Roberts said. “And it’s huge to be able to provide that.”
One Agassiz resident who knows a lot about the importance of access to a milk bank is Kristen Patrice.
She donated back in 2011 after the birth of her premature son.
“One of the risks when you have a premature baby and particularly surrounding a traumatic birth or emergency birth, your breast milk is not guaranteed to come in that early,” Patrice said. “I was very fortunate that the nurses had me start pumping, and the nurses in the NICU were absolutely thrilled that from the first day they were able to rely on my own milk.”
Other mothers of premature babies are not as lucky, so a milk bank draws on donated milk to provide much needed breast milk for those vulnerable infants.
Her newborn only needed a very small amount of food, so Patrice donated her accumulated supply to the milk bank until her child was physically able to demand more of her milk.
At that time, Chilliwack had recently signed on to become a donation depot, so Patrice didn’t have to drive to Vancouver to deliver her milk. And now with those resources in Agassiz and Hope, it’s even easier to give the precious gift of breast milk to those in need.
“To have resources on site, to have that assistance, to have people to speak to and to have moms to be able to chat together and take a break with their babies is a brilliant idea,” Patrice said. “Because there is that need for breast milk, and to provide that encouragement for people to donate is fabulous.”