When Heather Clements gave birth fifteen weeks early, she knew breastmilk would provide the best nutrition for her preemie daughter.

When Heather Clements gave birth fifteen weeks early, she knew breastmilk would provide the best nutrition for her preemie daughter. But pumping was a struggle. "I was pumping for 15 minutes out of every hour, all day long, and barely getting any milk," says Ms. Clements. "I tried all kinds of things to increase my supply, but nothing worked."

That's when the NICU nurses at Nationwide Children's Hospital, in Columbus, suggested another option. "They told me that donated breastmilk was available," says Ms. Clements. "That's what we ended up using. Nyllah was in the hospital for 98 days, and she received donor milk for most of that time."

The breastmilk Nyllah received came from the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio, located in Columbus's Victorian Village Health Center. It's one of only nine nonprofit milk banks in the country, and provides breastmilk to hospitals throughout the U.S. and Canada.

There's a high demand for the milk bank's breastmilk, says Georgia Morrow, an RN and certified lactation consultant who is coordinator of the Mother's Milk Bank. "Preemies who are fed breastmilk have better survival rates, and tend to do better developmentally," she says. "So if there's a mom who can't produce enough milk for her child, the neonatologist may write a prescription for breastmilk from a milk bank." In fact, the milk bank sometimes struggles to meet the growing demands of its 28 recipient hospitals. "We would love to have more donors so that we can provide human donor milk to all babies who need it," says Ms. Morrow.

At the Columbus milk bank (as at all U.S. milk banks), potential donors must first complete a thorough screening process, including a blood test for communicable diseases. Once approved, donors begin pumping and freezing their breastmilk, and later bring it to a drop-off center. (There are drop-off centers in Athens, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo.) From the drop-off center, it's transported to the milk bank, where milk bank employees thaw, test, and pasteurize it. The milk is then prepared for shipment to hospitals, where it's given to preemies and sick infants (under physicians' orders only).

Amanda Westrick, of Blacklick, is one of the donor moms. "I was very blessed to have more than enough milk," says Amanda. "By the time my son was two months old, I had quite a stash in my deep freeze. I saw that I was making more milk than my son needed, so I was happy to start sharing it with babies who really need it."

"My husband and I are both involved with the milk bank," says Eugenia Maish, of Columbus. "He volunteers as a courier, transporting milk from various drop-off locations to the milk bank, and I'm a donor. Breastmilk has so many benefits for sick babies; we both feel strongly about helping make it available for them. We feel privileged to be involved with the milk bank."

Krista Salvati, of Reynoldsburg, donated breastmilk to the milk bank after her infant son Zackary died of congenital heart defects. "My son's milk was helping other babies," says Ms. Salvati. "I felt like a part of him was living on."

Today, little Nyllah Clements is an energetic, inquisitive 15-month-old; a vivid example, says Ms. Morrow, of how "our donor mothers' compassion and generosity are making a tremendous difference in the lives of so many families."

For more information, contact the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio (a service of Grant Medical Center) at (614) 544-0810, or via email at gmorrow@ohiohealth.com.