Quebec launches breast milk bank

The Quebec government announced Wednesday it is taking steps to address a “crying need” by setting up its first breast-milk bank.

QUEBEC — The Quebec government announced Wednesday it is taking steps to address a “crying need” by setting up its first breast-milk bank.

While there are other breast-milk banks in the world, Quebec says its would be unique because it would be run by a public agency that already exists — Hema-Quebec, the provincial blood services agency.

If a bill tabled in the legislature Wednesday is passed, about 260 donors would be sought to provide milk to premature babies whose mothers produce little or no breast milk.

Canada already has two private breast milk banks —the B.C. Women’s Hospital and Health Centre in Vancouver and the Calgary Mothers’ Milk Bank. A third, the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank in Toronto, is currently screening donors and is expected to be up and running shortly.

About 1,000 premature babies are born annually in Quebec and the risk of complications increases when they don’t get milk from their mothers.

Consumption of breast milk by babies of 32 weeks and less reduces the risk of infection and allergies as well as helping blood pressure and bone density, said Health Minister Rejean Hebert.

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