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Yellowknife mothers heed the call
'I don't have the cure for cancer so this was something I could do': Jennifer Marcotte Bennett

Svjetlana Mlinarevic
Northern News Services
Published Friday, November 23, 2012

The saying "it takes a village to raise a child" has been put into practice by a group of 20 Yellowknife moms.

For the past three months, the nursing mothers have been pumping their breast milk and delivering it to Edmonton mom Ashley King for her five-month-old daughter Peytyn.

"We've all done something manageable and collectively - it's pretty awesome," said Kayley Mackay, one of the donating mothers and organizers for the collective. "So far, I've given about 10 cups of milk and the group has given at least 100 cups."

King, who just finished chemotherapy last Thursday for choriocarcinoma - a rare-type of uterine cancer formed during pregnancy - wasn't able to breast feed her premature baby while on chemo so her cousin, Jennifer Marcotte Bennett, decided to create Peytyn's Page on Facebook as a way to rally milk donations.

"She needed it and I don't have the cure for cancer so this was something I could do," said Marcotte Bennett. "Because Peytyn was born so prematurely, she's got a premature digestive system. She's got the digestive system of a two-or three-month-old instead of a five-month-old. She was born at 32 weeks and she wouldn't tolerate formula so that's the reason that we got her milk, because otherwise she would have had to have a feeding tube."

So far, King has received about 4,000 ounces of breast milk from Yellowknife and the Alberta communities of Calgary, Edmonton, St. Albert, Sherwood Park, Leduc, Beaumont, Warburg, and Drayton Valley.

Not only are Yellowknife mothers pumping their breast milk but they're also providing white glove delivery service as well.

"I couldn't give breast milk but I wanted to do something for this little one so I offered to bring the milk down to her," said Vera Peddle, who has been making regular flights to Edmonton with a large cooler full of milk packets every month.

"I'm ready now to bring down the third lot and maybe the last lot. We're in the process now of getting another batch ready," said Peddle, who will make a delivery on Nov. 29 as King is preparing to breast feed again.

"I'm just thankful for everybody," said King. "That's the number one thing. I can't believe it. I think it would have been really, really stressful had it not been for all these moms and the people organizing it too was huge," said King, who has been cancer free for three weeks and plans to go on a skiing trip to Snow Valley with her family this winter in order to reconnect after her seven-month ordeal.

So how safe is it to use donated milk?

"The risk would be pretty much nil if it's pasteurized before being given to the baby," said Dr. Andre Corriveau, chief public health officer for the NWT. King pasteurizes all her milk.

For mothers who are looking to donate to mothers who are nursing in the NWT, Corriveau said the territory doesn't have a milk bank because there is no need for it now and all premature babies who require neonatal care go to Edmonton.

"I know across the country many of the neonatal intensive care units have started to set up breast milk banks in the wards where they take care of premature babies because the research has shown that those babies when fed breast milk do a lot better then those who were fed formula," he said.

Should there be a need in Yellowknife for breast milk, Mackay is certain mothers in the city would step up.

"I'm sure if there was something else that came up everybody would jump at the chance to help. I'm sure they would ... If we're willing to do that for a mom in Edmonton, I'm sure we would be more than happy to help someone in town if it came up. I'm sure that people would help."

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