ELYRIA, Ohio (WJW) – A new effort is launching in Erie and Lorain counties next week to help hospitals along with new mothers feed babies. It will require the assistance of many mothers to get the job done.

The OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank will open new breast milk drop off locations in Elyria and Sandusky in partnership with the local health departments.

“Donor milk or human milk to a NICU baby is like blood is to a trauma patient,” said Chris Smith, Outreach Coordinator at OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank. “It’s lifesaving. It’s more considered a medicine than a nutrition.”

The Columbus-based milk bank is just one of 29 in North America and 26 in the United States. In 2021, the milk bank distributed more than 3,000 gallons across the country.

Smith said one ounce of breast milk can feed a premature infant for three days.

After pre-screened donors drop off breast milk, it is transferred to Columbus where it’s pasteurized and distributed primarily to hospitals and to some mothers in 12 states with a prescription for donor breast milk.

The addition of new donor drop-off locations comes as some families still struggle to find infant formula.

“We’re getting phone calls from families that are looking for milk and we’ve got the ability to help them bridge a little bit of that while they’re looking for milk,” said Smith. “Being able to give them some donor milk to tide them over until they can find formula.”

This new partnership with the Columbus-based milk bank and local public health providers comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration analyzes how to continue allowing overseas baby formula manufacturers to ship formula to the U.S. The FDA previously announced overseas formula shipments would be allowed until mid-November.

“We’ve just got a lot of NICU babies and even a lot of outpatients who are struggling with formula and not just getting formula, but being able to tolerate formula,” said Smith. “We need donations. We need moms who have extra milk.”

It proves that it takes a village to raise a child and every drop of donated liquid gold makes it possible.

Learn more about OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank here.