[Editor’s Note: Jannette Festival, RN, IBCLC, is the Founder and Executive Director for the Calgary Mothers’ Milk Bank (CMMB). The CMMB is one of the newest banks affiliated with the Human Milk Bank Association of North America (HMBANA). The bank has begun accepting donations of milk from qualified mothers and will begin distributing donor milk in the very near future. As a means to gather insight on establishing a milk bank from scratch, I had a very insightful conversation with Jannette. The following two posts outline our discussion.]
Lisa Baker: Tell me a little about yourself and how you became involved with the CMMB.
Jannette Festival: I am an RN and an IBCLC. I started my nursing career in Labor and Delivery Unit at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary, Alberta. I was very interested in breastfeeding since I would always be in the room when moms were first latching their newborn babies. I started teaching prenatal classes and a large portion of those classes were centered around breastfeeding. I eventually ended up working in the Postpartuum Unit where I was always working with breastfeeding moms. I became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and started a Lactation Consulting business. As far as how I became involved with the milk bank, I am the founder.
Lisa Baker: How did the Calgary Mothers’ Milk Bank come to be?
Jannette Festival: Back in November 2011 the Canadian Pediatric Society issued a statement: “The preferred nutrition for the newborn is his/her own mother’s milk. When this is not available or is limited, pasteurized human donor breast milk is a recommended alternative for hospitalized neonates.” At this point I had felt that if I couldn’t start a milk bank right now, it just might never happen. I first contacted Maureen Fjeld and asked her “can I start a community-based milk bank?” Her response was “absolutely”. I was able to get a lot of help from a friend who was the former CFO of STARS helicopters. Ann Marie had all the business and not-for-profit experience that I was missing. We were really a perfect pair to tackle this. She just happened to retire, and I was able to convince her that she was too early for retirement.
Lisa Baker: How long has the project been underway?
Jannette Festival: It has been 15 months of 2 people working full time. We also have several part-time people who have been able to offer their expertise from architecture to computers and creating brochures.
Lisa Baker: What has been the biggest challenge in starting the bank?
Jannette Festival: When we first started discussions with HMBANA, they are our professional organization, they had told us that money and space are the two largest challenges for milk banks. They were right. We had the finances taken care of but we looked at and evaluated 12 different locations. There are a lot of items that needed to be considered. That took a lot of our time.
Lisa Baker: Who or what has been the project’s biggest source of support?
Jannette Festival: We have had several sources of support. When I first presented this project to a physicians group they bought into it right away. Dr. Chen Fong was at this meeting and he was able to put me in contact with other physicians in Calgary who he felt might be interested. Our Medical Director Dr. Doug Caine was at this original meeting. Dr. Caine and I went to present to Dr. Doug Wilson. Dr. Wilson is an obstetrician and he was very aware of the benefits of breast milk and volunteered to help us. It literally just snow balled from there.
Lisa Baker: How did you obtain funding for this project?
Jannette Festival: Funding for the project started with a single donor who wishes to remain anonymous. We are a charitable, not-for-profit organization. Since we obtained this status other individuals have stepped forward and have been able to support us with donations or their offer of help in their area of expertise. While looking for a contractor I talked to friends of mine who decided to donate the funds required to build our office and pasteurizing room. Our Treasurer Anne Marie and her partner purchased the pasteurizer. We’ve been receiving small on-line donations. This all helps us tremendously.
Lisa Baker: How will you continue to fund the Milk Bank?
Jannette Festival: Calgary Mothers’ Milk Bank is a charitable, not-for-profit organization. There is a fee for the milk and it’s based on cost recovery. We also intend to approach individuals for donations. In the near future we will look at a fundraiser. Because we are not based in the hospital we can take advantage of using volunteers. There is a lot of talent out there and people are more than happy to volunteer. This will help keep our costs down.
Stay tuned for part two of our interview, where Jannette will discuss the logistics of collecting and distributing donor milk and her vision of the future of milk banking in Canada.