Frequently asked questions
To donate milk to Héma-Québec’s Public Mothers’ Milk Bank, you must:
- be in good health;
- be a non-smoker;
- deliver at one of the Héma-Québec partner hospitals or live in a municipality of the Montréal Metropolitan Community (including Saint-Jérôme and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu) or the Québec Metropolitan Community (including Laurier-Station, Saint-Basile, Saint-Apollinaire, Neuville, Pont-Rouge and Donnacona); and
- be nursing your baby and able to produce surplus milk.
If you live in Estrie, find out about the pilot project currently underway.
No. Mothers who choose to donate their milk do so on a completely voluntary basis.
The qualification process includes a telephone interview and a blood test:
- Following your registration, a Héma-Québec advisor will contact you for a qualifying interview.
- Then, if you qualify, a blood sample will be taken.
We conduct screening tests for the AIDS virus (HIV), the human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV I/II), hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis. These tests are done at the outset, after six months and at the end of the donation period.
You can donate for 12 months after giving birth (assuming that you requalify after six months).
You will no longer be able to donate to the bank.
- Wash your hands with soap and water then dry them with a clean towel.
- Clean your breast and nipple with a clean, damp cloth, working outwards from the nipple. Dry your breast well.
- Do not use any powders, perfume, or scented soap or body lotion.
- Keep your breast clean.
- Use a fresh nursing pad for each feeding.
caution: Breast skin is fragile. Do not disinfect your breast; simply keep it clean.
If you use a breast pump, clean it at least once a day according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you collect your milk more than once a day, carefully rinse any breast pump components that have been in contact with your breasts.
Each bottle holds up to 100 ml, but no minimum quantity is required. Never fill a bottle above the 100 ml mark, as the milk expands when frozen.
Collect your milk only if you have a surplus after feeding your infant, as you are able and feel comfortable doing so.
Yes, your baby receives all the nutrition required at every feeding.
Keep it in the freezer (as far from the door as possible to protect against variations in temperature). Never refreeze milk that has thawed.
Héma-Québec provides the bottles. If you require additional bottles, call us at 514-832-5000, extension 5253.
Plan to have Héma-Québec collect your bottles at least once a month or as dictated by the space in your freezer. To arrange for a pickup, just call us at 514-832-5000, extension 5253.
Keep the bottles of milk in the freezer until the courier arrives. It is important that the milk not thaw.
If you live in Estrie and are participating in the pilot projet currently underway, you must bring your milk to the designated drop-off point, at the Sherbrooke PLASMAVIE Plasma Donor Lounge located at: 3200, rue King Ouest (local A-170). When doing so, you must follow certain transportation instructions:
- Milk must remain frozen during transport.
- Carry frozen milk in a cooler or insulated bag with ice packs so that the milk stays frozen for the entire duration of the transport.
- Transportation between your home and the drop-off point must not exceed 1 hour.
- In order to preserve milk quality, it is important to opt for direct transport to the drop-off point.
See the guide that was sent to you. If clarifications are needed afterwards, please contact Héma-Québec by calling 514-832-5000, extension 5253, and we will explain how to proceed.
While the donation you are making is truly valuable, the presence of certain medications in your milk could be harmful to the infants who will receive it.
See the guide that was sent to you. If clarifications are needed afterwards, please contact Héma-Québec by calling 514-832-5000, extension 253, and we will explain how to proceed.
If your state of health or lifestyle changes, you may become ineligible to donate milk. You must inform us if you:
- contract a bacterial or viral infection;
- develop a new health problem;
- receive a new medical diagnosis;
- are exposed to a childhood disease;
- receive a vaccination;
- are exposed to a risk factor for transmissible infections:
- drug use,
- a new sexual partner,
- risky sexual practices,
- a new tattoo or skin piercing,
- contact with the blood of another person.
The exclusion period will be determined according to Héma-Québec’s criteria. We will let you know when you can start donating milk to the bank again.
No. While you are nursing, you will naturally be thirstier and should simply drink accordingly.
If you drink alcohol, you must wait 12 hours before collecting milk for the bank. The maximum daily allowance is two glasses of beer or wine or one serving of spirits.
No special diet is recommended for donating breast milk. Eat a variety of foods in keeping with your appetite. If you are a vegetarian, however, you should take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Yes, so long as you are breastfeeding and able to produce surplus milk.
Breasts produce milk independently. If only one breast is stimulated, the other breast will stop producing after a few weeks.
Milk normally separates because the fat rises to the top. The amount of fat in milk can vary over time and from one mother to another.
- When milk arrives at Héma-Québec, it is subject to biochemical testing.
- It is then pasteurized to eliminate viruses and bacteria.
- Following pasteurization, the milk undergoes microbiological testing and is then stored in a freezer.
- The donated breast milk is sent to hospitals that require it to treat extremely preterm infants.
No. All milk from Héma-Québec’s bank is sent to hospitals to treat extremely preterm infants.
Yes. Four mothers’ milk banks (including ours) operate in the following Canadian cities:
Breasts will continue to produce milk as long as a baby is nursing or the mother is collecting her milk. However, no one is asked to extend lactation in order to donate milk to the bank.