Interview with Jannette Festival, Founder of Calgary Mothers Milk Bank (Part 2)

[Editor’s note: This is the final post of  a two-part series.  In this series I interview Jannette Fesitval, RN, IBCLC, and Founder of the Calgary Mothers’ Milk Bank].

Lisa Baker: What is the potential capacity of the bank?

Jannette Festival: That is really dependant on our supply of milk from donor moms. We anticipate that we will pasteurize 40,000 oz (1200 L) our first year. Our pasteurizer is capable of handling volumes up to 250,000 oz/year or 7500 L/year.

Lisa Baker: Who will receive the donor milk?

Jannette Festival: Because we won’t be able to collect all the milk that is needed we will need to triage it out. The easiest way to do this is to have the milk available by prescription. This will ensure that it will go to the sickest babies first. Our hope is to provide everyone that is in need of human milk.

Lisa Baker: What regions will the bank serve?

Jannette Festival: We would like to try and support Albertans first. But if there was a sick baby out of province who needed milk we would do our best to supply milk to them. If we are collecting milk from donor moms in other provinces then we will reciprocate when needed.

Lisa Baker: How will you recruit donors?

Janette Festival: Recruitment of Donors will be a full time job. Advertising and awareness is huge. There really needs to be a paradigm shift in how people value human milk and this is based on knowledge and education. By educating all health care providers I feel that this will be passed on to moms who will become aware of the importance of breastfeeding and may become potential donors.

We just received funding from the Calgary Breastfeeding Matters Group here in Calgary. and were able to create posters for all the Community Health Offices, doctors offices, really anyplace where moms and babies gather. The Milk Bank has also put in an advertisement in the book ‘From Here through Maternity’. Every pregnant mom in Alberta receives this book and there are 20,000 expected to be distributed in 2012.

 We also have donors who are moms that have lost their babies. Donating milk gives these women a chance to give back something positive when such a tragedy has occurred. We’ve attended Physician Conferences where we’ve discussed donor recruiting, testing of moms and testing of the milk. I’ve also presented to Neonatology Grand Rounds, NICU’s etc. – it’s never ending! And of course FaceBook and our website have helped inform the public of who we are and our mission.

 Lisa Baker: What is the screening process for potential donors? 

Jannette Festival: The screening process is very thorough and a bit of work on the donor part. We first start with a verbal interview on the phone that can be done in 20 minutes but usually takes a bit longer than that. This is followed by a written questionnaire, blood tests, and a visit between the donor and her health care provider. Once all the results are gathered and there are no issues we can accept the donor’s milk.

Lisa Baker: Do you anticipate lots of mothers to donate?

Jannette Festival: I don’t think we will have any problem recruiting donors. Donating human milk is one of the most altruistic acts a women can do. It truly is a win-win situation. Where else can you make this type of donation that could have such an impact on a baby’s future quality of life or even, life or death. When a mom has read our website and has decided she wants to donate, she is excited and eager to participate.

Lisa Baker: Where do you see the future of human milk banking?

 Jannette Festival: I think each Province needs to have it’s own milk bank. I believe that once the medical community observes the success of the milk bank and it’s impact on sick and fragile babies– more milk banks will open. I think that community milk banks are accountable and sustainable – they need to be to survive. They also have the ability and responsibility to educate the public about the importance of breastfeeding. Calgary Mothers’ Milk Bank will have free breastfeeding classes for moms prior to their babies being born as well as peer-to-peer support after. We really want to create a place where moms can gather and support each other. Milk banks should exist to support breastfeeding, not the other way around (Arnold, 2010). We would eventually like to participate in research of human milk.Hospital milk banks can work well, if they are valued. But if the hospital has a tight budget period, history has shown that often milk banks can be the first to go or cut back. And that’s what you don’t want to happen. 

 Arnold, Louis D.W. (2010), Human Milk in the NICU Policy into Practice (pg. 397)

For more information on the Calgary Mother’s Milk Bank, please visit their website at

To learn more about HMBANA and how to start a milk bank, please visit their website at


Interview with Jannette Festival, Founder of Calgary Mothers' Milk Bank (Part 2)

March 10, 2012 07:00 AM by Ngozi Doreen D Tibbs, MPH, IBCLC, LCCE
Thank you for this valuable informtion. I hope we et a milk bank soon is PA.

Interview with Jannette Festival, Founder of Calgary Mothers' Milk Bank (Part 2)

March 15, 2012 07:00 AM by Sam
As a matter of fact I never new that milk banks exist. Sounds fascinating and I'd love to know more about the working procedures of milk bank.

Interview with Jannette Festival, Founder of Calgary Mothers' Milk Bank (Part 2)

March 15, 2012 07:00 AM by Lisa D Baker, BSc, BEd,LCCE, FACCE
They are a very precious resource to our most vunerable little ones. A visit to the HMBANA website is a great first step in finding out more about milk banks ( There are other milk banks, however do be sure to find out how the donations are being used. Not all milk donated to banks outside of HMBANA go directly to babies in need.

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