"The gift my babies got was an amazing trampoline for them for life," Paola Hubert said.
She is getting ready to take her twins home from the hospital soon.
The "gift" Hubert is talking about is donated breast milk from a program of the Rocky Mountain Children's Health Foundation, the Mothers' Milk Bank Colorado. It is one of 12 nonprofit donor human milk banks in North America.
"I feel like it is liquid gold. It has helped their growth tremendously," she said.
Neo neonatologist Dr. Jan Kennaugh said the need for breast milk has gone up. Kennaugh says there is more and more research that shows the benefits.
"We have discovered these babies grow better and have fewer infections," Kennaugh said.
Last year, the Mothers' Milk Bank Colorado dispensed 330,000 ounces of milk to babies in 117 different cities. On a dry erase board there are orders for hospitals from Atlanta to Washington state.
Most of the milk was provided to hospitals for their preterm and sick babies. These are children who have been born up to 16 weeks early and may weigh only a pound at birth. Doctors say these babies are extremely fragile and the donated milk they receive has a large impact.
"Incorporating the donated breast milk has been a way to make them stronger faster," Hubert said.
"It is an easy way to give back," Teresa Giarrantano said.
Giarrantano is a milk donor and says it means a lot to be part of a public service.
"If I can help save the life of these babies and support these new Mother's it's just something I am happy to do," Giarrantano said.
Many more donors are needed.
Across the country, supply is not keeping up with demand. Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) are now forced to ration their supply of mother's milk. More than 1,500 fragile babies in hospital NICUs may not receive the lifesaving nourishment they need right now to thrive.
"It can truly be the difference between life and death," said Dr. Jeffrey Hanson, the medical director for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center .
Lorraine Lockhart Gohrman helps run the Mothers' Milk Bank Colorado.
"Donating or receiving milk, you can be assured the milk is safe," Gohrman said.
She warned that there are websites out there that share milk but do not go through any screening process.
Mothers' Milk Bank Colorado, and all HMBANA milk banks, do not charge for the milk itself, only for the processing of the milk and related overhead. Processing includes the multi-step screening of the donor, including blood tests, donor tracking, pasteurization, testing and analysis of the milk. Related operational costs include rental of office space, purchase of bottles and caps, freezers, and qualified employees.
Volunteers are a big part of the process.
It's easy to become a donor: Call 303-869-1888 to get started.
Click here for more information: http://www.milkbankcolorado.org/
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)