August 29, 2018
Story by Diana Rinne
FORT McMURRAY — As a new mom here, Lyndsey Gill never imagined the positive impact she could have on the lives of other children.
Although she was not able to continue to breastfeed her daughter Oliva past the age of three-and-a-half months due to her daughter’s health concerns, Gill knows the value of breast milk and continued to pump so she could donate her milk to the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank.
“Her decision to continue to pump and donate her breastmilk is very inspiring, and I hope it encourages other mothers to do the same,” says Jennifer Splaine, AHS Public Health Area Manager for Fort McMurray.
Launched two years ago, the Fort McMurray Milk Drop — located at the Alberta Health Services (AHS) Public Health Unit at 113 Thickwood Blvd. — opened with support from the Northern Lights Health Foundation towards the local Baby-Friendly Initiative, which encourages families to make informed feeding decisions for their babies.
The Milk Drop serves as a site for approved donor mothers to drop off their milk, which is then sent to Calgary to be pasteurized and distributed by the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank to sick babies in hospitals and communities across Canada.
To date, the Milk Drop has shipped about 145 litres of donor breast milk from Fort McMurray.
“It was hard to find time to pump and take care of my little girl while knowing the milk wasn't for her,” says Gill. “I thought of giving up, but then I'd think of the little babies in the NICU or moms whose milk hadn't come in yet because their babies arrived too early. That's what kept me going.”
Over a period of five months, Gill gave an impressive 25.5 litres of breast milk, eight litres of which was dairy-free.
“The day I dropped them off for donation had to have been one of the best days of my life,” she says. “Knowing that I was going to help little babies get big and strong really makes a person feel good.”
The best day, however, adds Gill, was the day she received a phone call from the Milk Bank to thank her for her donations.
“They said that there was a special little baby in desperate need of my dairy-free milk — and that it was being pasteurized right away and sent out for distribution,” she says. “I still get very emotional thinking about the whole process. But it's a good emotion knowing that I helped babies in need. It makes all the hard work and tears worth every second.”
“Fort McMurray Community Health Services continues to support NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank knowing the long-term value that mothers’ milk has on the health of infants,” says Splaine.
“When we received the donation from Lyndsey with her note, we were so happy to have become a small part of her breastfeeding journey. Her dedication to provide breast milk to babies in Alberta is invaluable.”