All hospital visitors are recommended to wear a medical face mask. Expand this message for information about visiting hospital.

Last updated:
13 March 2023


Mask exemptions accepted for people seeking treatment
Any member of the public with a mask exemption is welcome in all our facilities when attending to receive health care and *treatment. Please show your mask exemption card and appointment letter to staff at the entrance.

*Treatment includes: coming into the Emergency Department, outpatient appointments,  surgery or a procedure.

Some visitor restrictions for all Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury hospitals and health facilities remain in place, but we have relaxed others.

There is still a heightened risk to vulnerable people in hospital and so we recommend all people wear a mask when visiting any of our facilities and follow other advice designed to keep patients, staff and  visitors safe.

Kia whakahaumaru te whānau, me ngā iwi katoa – this is to keep everybody safe:

  • Visitors or support people must not visit our facilities if they are unwell. Do not visit if you have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and haven’t completed your isolation period.
  • Patients may have more than one visitor, except in some situations such as multi-bed rooms where it can cause overcrowding.
  • Surgical/medical masks are recommended be worn at all sites. Masks will be provided if you don’t have one.
  • For Specialist Mental Health Services everyone is strongly encouraged to wear a face mask in all inpatient areas and areas where consumers are receiving care (i.e. community appointments, home-visits, transporting people). Discretion may be applied in cases where masks impair your ability to communicate effectively.
  • Visitors must not eat or drink in multibed rooms because of the increased risk when multiple people remove their face mask in the same space.
  • Hand sanitiser is available and must be used.

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.

Visiting patients with COVID-19

  • People can visit patients who have COVID-19 but they must wear an N95 mask – this will be provided if you don’t have one.
  • Other methods of communication will be facilitated e.g. phone, Facetime, Zoom, WhatsApp etc where visits aren’t possible.

All of our Hospitals

Visiting hours for our hospitals have returned to pre COVID-19 hours with the exception of Christchurch Women’s Hospital.

All visitors are recommended to wear a medical face mask.

Parents/caregivers are able to be with their child in hospital and visitors are now allowed, except for the Children’s Haematology and Oncology Day stay where just one parent/caregiver is able to attend their appointment with their child. Exceptions by special arrangement only.

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.


Hi, I’m Anthea, one of the Milk Bank Managers here at the Human Milk Bank.

A Human Milk Bank accepts milk from registered donors, pasteurises it, tests it, and then stores it until used.

Human Milk Bank serves the sick and the preterm babies at the Christchurch Neonatal Unit.

The Neonatal Unit admits over 900 babies. That’s 10% of all births.

Some mums are unable to provide their own milk in the weeks after their babies are born.

So the Human Milk Bank supports those mothers by offering pasteurised donor milk until they establish their milk supply.

But at the moment we’re short on milk, so we’re putting out an SOS for any mothers in the community who are exclusively breastfeeding and have a healthy child and wish to become donors for the Milk Bank.

There is another Milk Bank, the rotary Community Milk Bank, and they are also looking for donors.

If you Google, “CDHB Human Milk Bank”, you’ll come to our website all the documentation and information is there for you to download.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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.


Welcome to the Human Milk Bank.

This video takes you on a journey through the human milk bank and the stages of pasteurizing donated breast milk.

This is the raw and pasteurized milk freezer.

Where bags of donated breast milk are stored until required for pasteurizing.

They can be stored for up to three months from the day of expressing.

These are the yellow quarantine milk freezer on the left.

Where milk awaiting microscopy results is stored.

The green freezer on the right is the dispensing freezer.

This fridge is used to defrost milk overnight ready for pasteurizing.

Meet “Louis” the nine litre sterifeed eco pasteurizer

As breast milk is a body fluid and a food, hygiene standards are required.

This is Mary Cleave the Milk Bank Aid who pasteurizes the milk.

The number of bottles used in the pasteurization process is determined by how much milk is in each batch of raw milk.

An electronic Data Logger is used to ensure the pasteurization process is correct.

Once programmed the Data Logger is attached to the pasteurizer.

Donor mother’s milk is tested for bacterial count before and after the pasteurization process.

If it is too high, the milk is discarded.

One donors milk is pooled to about 2.5 litres and agitated for uniformity.

Once pulled, the raw milk is poured into special pasteurization bottles. At this point a sample of unpasteurized milk is sent for bacterial count.

Once all the milk has been poured into the pasteurization bottles.

These are then placed into a basket ready for the pasteurizer.

Each bottle holds about 240 mils.

A total of about 8.7 litres of milk can be pasteurized at one time.

A temperature probe is part of the Data Logger system.

The probe is placed into a bottle of water amongst the bottles of milk in the basket and into the pasteurizer.

The temperature probe reflects the temperature of the milk throughout the pasteurization process.

The baskets of raw milk are placed into the pasteurizer of hot swirling water at about 63 degrees.

This photograph shows two baskets of milk ready for the pasteurizer.

Once the bottle probe is attached to the pasteurizer on the right.

The Data Logger is started to record the temperature of the water bottle every minute throughout the pasteurization process which takes about two hours.

The pasteurizer warms the milk to about 62.5 or 63 degrees, holds it at that temperature for 30 minutes, and then quickly chills the milk again to four degrees centigrade.

Once the milk has been pasteurized the baskets are removed, and the lids are tightened.

The data from the logger is downloaded to ensure the milk has been pasteurized correctly.

The pasteurized milk is decanted into smaller sized bottles for ease of use.

A post-pasteurization sample is sent for microscopy to ensure the pasteurizer has been effective.

Pasteurized donor milk is stored in three sizes 50 mils 100 mils and 200 mils.

And the appropriate size bottle is dispensed according to the recipient’s needs.

Every bottle of pasteurized milk has a unique identification number and expiry date.

And can have other information such as calories, protein, and the fat content of that milk.

The number does not identify the donor, but does allow for tracking and tracing of the milk from donor to recipient.

Once opened, the milk expires after 24 hours.

Once the microscopy sample has been sent, the batch of milk is bagged and labelled.

And then is placed in the quarantine freezer until the microscopy results are obtained after 48 hours.

Once the microscopy results are obtained and the milk has been cleared for use. The batch of milk is placed in the dispensing green freezer.

When a baby has been consented for pasteurized donor milk.

The appropriate amount of milk is dispensed, recorded in the inventory, and double checked against the baby’s ID.

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: 27 February 2023

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