The Breastfeeding Education & Equity Program provides 1:1 lactation support and companionship for new parents.
Parents in need of lactation support are matched with an experienced and trained mentor: peer volunteers with diverse lived breast/bodyfeeding and pumping experiences.
Our vision is to normalize breast/bodyfeeding and create a community of support for new families.
The BEE Program Story
Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful act that nourishes both baby and mother. Recognizing its immense significance, NorthernStar Milk Bank has been a pillar of support for babies over the past eleven years, providing them with the nourishment they need to thrive when mom’s own milk is not available. However, we must also acknowledge the importance for caring for mothers themselves.
We proudly present the BEE Program (Breastfeeding Education and Equity), an innovative extension of the milk bank that aims to empower breastfeeding mothers through peer-to-peer support.
The decision to start a group support specifically for breastfeeding mothers and lactating parents stems from the understanding that this demographic faces unique challenges and needs. Often mothers lack the knowledge, experience and support system necessary to navigate the complexities of breastfeeding successfully. The BEE program aids to bridge this gap by creating a safe and inclusive space where parents can connect, share their experiences and receive guidance from others that have walked a similar path.
Peer-to-peer support has proven to be incredibly effective in fostering confidence and providing practical advice to individuals facing similar circumstances. By bringing together breastfeeding mothers, the BEE program offers a platform for them to exchange knowledge, seek emotional support and develop lasting friendships. The group will be facilitated by experienced lactation consultants and trained volunteers who can provide evidence-based information and address any concerns or questions that arise.
The BEE Program represents a natural progression for NorthernStar Milk Bank as we extend our mission to encompass care and support to breastfeeding mothers. By creating a peer-to-peer support group we
hope to empower these mothers, foster a sense of community, and promote breastfeeding education and equity.
NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank was founded in 2012, and is Canada's only community-based milk bank. Operating as a charitable organization, NorthernStar screens breastfeeding mothers, accepting donations of excess milk from approved donors to be pasteurized in our laboratory. Milk is then dispensed to sick babies in hospitals and at home.
We believe, and science supports, that human milk is the best option for any baby and that all babies have the right to the life-saving nutrients of pasteurized donor human milk.
Part of our commitment to ensuring that all babies have equitable access to human milk, and that all parents are able to fulfill their lactation goals, is providing a peer support program as well as fun and educational classes and programs. This is how the BEE Program was born!
Meet the Instructors
The BEE Program offers training to mentors twice a year, offering an 18-hour lactation and peer support course to parents with at least six months of lived experience with breastfeeding, bodyfeeding, or pumping.
Jannette is an RN and co-founder of NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank. Her nursing experience spans over Labor & Delivery, postpartum and teaching prenatal courses for Alberta Health Services. She has also run her own business ‘Festival Lactation Services’ providing support to new mothers once they were discharged from hospital. She is active with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) as a Board Director, Chair of Governance, member of the Standards Committee, and an Accreditor of Milk Banks within North America. She is passionate about new mothers and breastfeeding and feels that the BEE program will be an adjunct to other breastfeeding support offered within the Calgary area. The BEE program will offer peer-to-peer support which will be run by our trained volunteerBEE mentors.
“After holding our very first 18-hour training course we could feel the positive vibe in the room and our enthusiastic mentors were ready to help other mothers with their breastfeeding journey. It is a real honour to be a part of the BEE Program and have the opportunity to work with Chelsea and Maxine and especially our BEE Mentors - who are the most passionate, caring, and enthusiastic group!”
Chelsea has been passionate about birth, breastfeeding, and the postpartum period since she was in her teens. She has studied and worked as a labour and postpartum doula and trained as a breastfeeding counsellor. As a mother of two boys, she owned a maternity and baby boutique on Vancouver Island when they were babies, and the experience of being surrounded by a community of pregnant and breastfeeding women has stayed with her as something precious in our society. Her work at NorthernStar Milk Bank for the last two years as Executive Assistant & Outreach Coordinator has strengthened her passion for human milk and lactation support for all parents.
Maxine Scringer Wilkes
Maxine is a true champion for empowering families to feed their infants how they choose to. Maxine is a registered nurse with personal experiences of feeding support that she recalls could have been better, and she knows that parents will forever remember these first seminal interactions. As an international board-certified lactation consultant who has devoted countless hours of service on committees at the local, provincial, national, and now international level, Maxine is the personification of true support for all families. Maxine views the BEE Program will be a welcome addition to the supports currently available to new families in this area. Many new families with breastfeeding concerns often require an empathetic ear and words of encouragement that the BEE Program Mentors are well equipped to offer because of their own lived experiences.