Hospital visitors don’t need a Vaccine Pass, but must wear a surgical/medical paper mask. Fabric face coverings are no longer acceptable. See our COVID-19 pages for visiting guidelines, COVID-19 tests current case numbers in regions of Canterbury and care in the community advice. See for info about vaccinations.

We are at ORANGE according to the NZ COVID-19 Protection Framework

Last updated:
19 April 2022

For visitors to all facilities effective from Tuesday 19 April 2022

With the change to the ORANGE Traffic Light setting, Canterbury DHB is easing its visitor policy in recognition of the fact we have passed the peak of the current Omicron outbreak and case numbers are slowly reducing.

The following visitor restrictions are now in place for all Canterbury DHB hospitals and health facilities:

  • One adult visitor may be accompanied by no more than one child over the age of 12 per patient in the hospital at any given time, except where stated otherwise in the ‘exceptions’ section below.  No children under 12 and those 12 and over must be accompanied by an adult and wear a medical mask.
  • Visitors or support people should not visit our facilities if they are unwell.
  • Surgical/medical masks must be worn at all times at all Canterbury DHB sites and will be provided if people don’t have them.
  • Hand sanitiser stations are visible and must be used.

By adhering to these conditions, you help keep our patients, staff, other visitors and yourself safe. We thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as our staff work hard to protect and care for some of the most vulnerable in our community.

Exceptions to the ‘one visitor’ policy

  • Exceptions can apply in some circumstances (ie more than one visitor) where a trusted whānau member provides assistance, reassurance and other support for therapeutic care or on compassionate grounds – please talk to the ward’s Charge Nurse to discuss this before you come to hospital to visit. For whānau with an essential support role as a Partner in Care – please check with the ward’s Charge Nurse before you come to hospital to visit
  • People attending Christchurch ED or Ashburton AAU can have one support person with them
  • Women in labour and in the birthing suite can have two support people, and women on the Maternity Ward are allowed one support person for the duration of their stay in our facilities at Christchurch Womens Hospital and other maternity units. Only one support person can be with each woman in the maternity ward, and one support person for maternity clinic appointments, no children are allowed to visit.
  • Parents/caregivers can be with their baby in NICU.
  • Parents/caregivers are able to be with their child in hospital (Except Children’s Haematology and Oncology Day patients where only one parent or caregiver is permitted, following a supervised negative RAT result)
  • Children who are inpatients, one other visitor (other than a parent or caregiver) is able to visit in consultation with the nurse in charge.
  • People requiring support when attending an appointment can have one support person. Please let the relevant service know if you need this so they are able to accommodate your request.

Exceptions for people with disabilities

An exception will be made for people with disabilities who are in hospital or have to attend an outpatient appointment – where they need a support person to access health services. For example, a sign language interpreter, support person for someone with a learning disability, or someone to assist with mobility. The support person is in addition to the one permitted visitor.

Face covering exemption cards

The Exemptions Team at the Ministry of Health is now responsible for processing requests for Face Covering Communication Cards.

Updated information about mask wearing, and how to request an exemption card can now be found here. People unable to request an exemption card online can call 0800 28 29 26 and select option 2, or text 8988

Patients and visitors should also read the additional more detailed visiting guidelines for each specific hospital.

More COVID-19 information

Human Milkbank

We need more milk donors!

The Human Milk Bank is running low on milk stocks.

In 2019,  the Neonatal Unit admitted 919 babies and we supported 40 percent mothers and babies with pasteurised donor milk. Donor breastmilk makes a difference. We would love to hear from you if you are healthy, exclusively breastfeeding your baby, do not smoke or vape and aren’t taking long-term medications.

Check out Becoming a Milk Donor below for more information.

Christchurch Women's Hospital's Neonatal Unit (NICU) has a philosophy that whenever possible, breast milk is the milk of choice for babies, especially for those born preterm or unwell. The Human Milk Bank opened  in February 2014 and has been serving the neonatal unit and maternity babies with a lot of help from our wonderful donor mothers.

The Human Milk Bank is located on the same floor as the Neonatal Unit with its own storage freezers and staff who undertake the pasteurising of the milk and administrative tasks.

The aim is to support mothers who are wishing to breastfeed by providing pasteurised donor milk in the first week after birth until their supply establishes. The milk bank also provides pasteurised donor milk for those babies who are at risk of necrotising enterocolitis (NEC). We are indebted to mothers who have a surplus supply of breast milk in their freezers or wish to donate going forward.

The Human Donor Milk Bank is managed by a clinical nurse. A milk aide works alongside the clinical nurse, pasteurising and testing donated milk. They are involved in working with consenting donors and coordinating the pasteurisation and supply processes. They also monitor systems in place to ensure the safety and quality of donor human milk.

Together they work closely with the doctors, nurses, infant feeding specialist and dietician staff to identify both potential donors and babies eligible to receive pasteurised donor milk. A committee of dedicated people has worked hard to make this service available to a vulnerable neonatal population. They are known as the Milk Bank Executive and includes the following staff:

  • Anthea Franks and Schol O’Bery (Clinical Nurse & Milk Bank Manager)
  • Maggie Meeks (Neonatal Consultant)
  • Nicky Clark (Dietician)
  • Bernard Hutchinson (Associate Clinical Nursing Manager)
  • Hazel McGregor (Infant Feeding Specialist)
  • Graeme Webb (Quality Coordinator, Child Health)

Why Human Donor Milk?

The benefits of pasteurised donor milk are that the human milk, which is pasteurised for use, contains over 200 components that are useful for growth and health for an infant. It assists the baby to build a healthy immune system and also acts as protection from infections. It contains easily digestible proteins, reduces the risk of bowel problems in preterm infants and contributes to nervous system and brain growth.

History of Human Milk Banks, Donor Milk

Feeding a baby with another woman's breast milk has occurred since time immemorial. In some cases it was merely a matter of convenience when mothers, particularly wealthy ones, did not want to suffer what they perceived as the 'indignity of breastfeeding', so wet nurses were employed and this became a thriving industry in some countries. Wet nurses provided milk for healthy babies who were able to actively suckle at the breast, but sick, small premature babies, who were unable to latch and breastfeed, were unable to benefit from being given to a wet nurse for nourishment.[1]

The first recorded milk bank opened in Vienna in 1909. Wet nurses expressed their breasts and this milk was given to sick babies. Now there are over 500 milk banks worldwide in 44 countries. The 1980s saw the decline of milk banks, not only due to the rise in HIV infections, but also partly due to the development of formula milks designed for preterm babies by industry. Although it was known that pasteurisation deactivated the HIV virus, (HIV did not result in a decline in blood banking) the perceived costs of screening potential donor mothers and the processes involved in donor milk banking, versus the easy availability of preterm formula, resulted in many, but not all, milk banks closing globally.

With increasing knowledge of the unique composition of breast milk and the detrimental health effects of formula milk, the interest in milk bank development has re-emerged globally. The protective components of breast milk such as the immunoglobulins IgA and SIgA, the anti-bacterial/anti-infective proteins lactoferrin and lysozyme, and the many oligosaccharides that provide bioactive factors, prebiotic, immunomodulatory & antimicrobial effects, have helped reduce necrotising enterocolits (NEC) and late onset sepsis rates in NICU babies.

[1] American Academy of Paediatrics. (2012). A policy statement: Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Paediatrics, doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-3552. (update on the 2005 statement)

​​From Donor to Baby - The Process

When donated milk is received it is stored in a holding freezer until a donors blood test results become available and the milk is cleared for use. Known as raw milk at this stage it can be stored frozen for up to three months until it is pasteurised. The raw milk is defrosted and each donor's milk is pooled into two to three batches (milk from different donors is not mixed) for tracking purposes. The milk is placed in bottles and pasteurised using the Holder method – heating the milk in a water bath to 62.5C for thirty minutes and quickly chilling the milk to 4C. The milk is then measured into various sized bottles, and refrozen for up to three months for use in the neonatal unit.

The Sterifeed Pasteuriser holds up to eight litres of milk. Microscopy samples of milk are taken pre and post-pasteurisation from every batch and the milk is held in a ‘quarantine’ status until results are verified after forty-eight hours. A paper tracking and tracing inventory allows the milk to be tracked from donor to recipient.

Milk Bank Process

The below video outlines the process.

If you are using an older browser and cannot see the video above, it can be viewed on instead.


The Milk Bank accepts breast milk from mothers who have surplus to their own baby's requirements. Mothers are provided general information about becoming a donor and what is involved. Additionally mothers are asked to complete a health questionnaire​ and have a blood test to ensure that they are free from infections known to be transmitted in breast milk. If the mother is eligible to donate she will be asked to sign a consent form and given further information about the process of expressing, freezing and donating milk. A donor starter pack will also be provided.

If you would like to know more about becoming a donor contact us;

Phone: (03) 364 4344

For more information download the following documents

Human Donor Breastmilk Health Screen
Human Milk For Our Babies
Mother Wishing to Donate Human Milk Consent Form
Donating Breastmilk and Taking Medication

See what some our Donors and Recipients have to say…

Milk Donors

I have loved being able to donate to the Milk Bank. My initial start to breastfeeding was not an easy one, I feel incredibly blessed to have a good supply and be able to support my son as well as other babies. The donating process could not have been easier and fitted in with what we were doing already. Thank you Anthea, Schol, and Fleur for this awesome service. Philippa van den Akker 1/2/2021

I'm thankful for the Human Milk Bank and for the opportunity to donate my milk to the babies. It was a very easy process. I recommend it for any woman considering donating. Simi Obu, 20/01/2021

Fabulous staff.  Appreciated milk collection from home. Donating milk was a rewarding experience. The staff at the milk bank made the process very easy and even collected milk form my doorstep. Emma Feringa 26/11/2020

It was wonderful to be able to give something back to NICU after all the amazing care they provided our son. A great team and they made donating milk convenient, easy and very rewarding. Sophie

I have loved being able to donate milk to the Human milk Bank. It is truly a gift that I am grateful for to feed my beautiful boy and many other babies. Charlotte Davie 03/06/2020

Donating to the milk is a rewarding and satisfying experience. It was a great way to get into a pumping routine and also became a bit of a personal challenge to see how many bottles I could fill. Very motivating.  Kerry Eppelstun 25/07/2019

I love being able to donate to such a worthy cause. They make the process super easy so it fits right into my schedule with my baby boy. Jess Ashton-Taylor 07/01/2020

Being a milk donor was simple and easy. It fitted in alongside what I was already doing. Regular pick- ups and open communication allowed for me to not fuss over what to do. If you have extra milk, I encourage you to join in. Theresa Waugh 12/12/2019

I felt so supported during donating. They made it so easy to donate milk, although you are a busy mum. Uncomplicated communication and pick up and you can always be sure it reaches to babies who need it most. Christin Mobis 24/01/2019

I was fortunate to be able to breastfeed and have surplus milk to donate. Having community pick-ups of frozen milk is so handy. Anthea made the whole process very easy. Unfortunately after starting solids my supply dropped so I was no longer able to donate.   However hope to be able to donate again in the future. Thank you for the opportunity. Kadie Price 27/09/2018 

Milk Recipients

I was given a lot of information upon receiving the milk but I think there was some confusion amongst the staff over admin of donor milk. I was put onto a very strict pumping regime within 24 hours of giving birth because we received donor milk and it made my time in the hospital post-birth quite stressful. Kirrily Eppelstun 25/07/2019

Note: It is normal practice for all mums in the neonatal unit, who wish to breastfeed, to be encouraged to express 2/3 hourly during the day and once at night to achieve 8 expressions in 24 hours in the early weeks. This is based on good research that early, effective, frequent expressing helps to support a potential milk supply as the baby is either too premature or sick to breastfeed directly. It may seem harsh as a mother already has the stress of having a baby in the neonatal unit but there is more stress when mothers are unable to produce milk for their baby because their bodies weren’t stimulated to produce milk in those early days and weeks.

Donors to the milkbank

These photos were taken with the last donations by the mothers. (Donors can continue to donate until their child reaches their first birthday)

Charlotte DaviePhilippa making her last donation

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a D​onor

​​The follo​wing frequently asked questions focuses specifically on the types of questions that potential donors commonly ask.

Currently only babies who have been admitted to the NICU and meet our standard criteria can be considered to receive Pasteurised Donated Milk (PDM). The supply to eligible babies is influenced by the availability of pasteurised breast milk. The criteria is regularly reviewed and updated according to milk supplies. Review the standard Human Milk Bank Criteria. This criteria is a general guide but other babies may be considered on an individual basis. The priority is given to those with significant risk factors for necrotising enterocolitis (NEC).

All babies should receive their own mother's colostrum where possible as this milk helps the infants gastrointestinal tract transition from the in-utero environment to the ex utero environment.

The parents of a potential recipient baby will be approached and given information which will include the following documents:

Recipient of Pasteurised Human Donor Milk Consent

Human Donor Milk For Your Baby

One of the parents (usually the mother) will be asked to sign the consent form and pasteurised donated milk will then be allocated to that baby.

What does donated milk mean to parents?

Caroline and Annabelle.

Baby Annabelle Milk Bank Donor Recipient

​New Zealand's first Human Milk Bank was possible through the generous support of the Canterbury Neonatal Unit Trust. They provided funding for pasteurisation and storage equipment making this service a reality for which we are very grateful. If you wish to support the trust which supports us, visit the or contact them;

Phone: 00 64 27 229 5689

On Tuesday 4th February 2014 the human milk bank opened its (freezer) doors, making it possible to provide pasteurised donor breast milk to babies in the Christchurch Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This is the first hospital-based formal donor milk bank in New Zealand.


​​​The Human Milk Bank now offers a pick-up service for all donations from registered Human Milk Bank donors.

As part of the partnership between Nurse Maude and the Neonatal Unit to provide help for nurses and families/whanau in the Neonatal Unit, Nurse Maude volunteers will provide this valuable weekly community service.

Parking is limited around Christchurch Hospital so this service makes life much easier for our donor mothers.

Fleur- Human Milk Bank Donor pick up service

Fleur- Human Milk Bank Donor pick up service

Page last updated: 5 February 2021

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