NEW YORK (FOX 5 NY) - The nonprofit New York Milk Bank officially opened its doors Wednesday in Westchester County. It's the first milk bank in New York State.
"I can't believe it took this long, I didn't know that it didn't exist," said Carla Doherty, who knows firsthand how important breast milk is for a child, especially for a premature baby, like her daughter Marlo.
"Breast milk was vital for her survival," she said.
She said her own breast milk was liquid gold to her baby girl who was born at 24 weeks.
"She got a disease called necrotizing enterocolitis," Carla said. "It's a very severe preemie disease and they believe the reason she made it through all of that was because of the breast milk."
But now Carla is not producing enough milk and has turned to the New York Milk Bank for help. They've been trying to work out the cost with her insurance company, which doesn't cover it.
"Breast-feeding and breast milk -- there is such a stigma around it and yet it's vital to these preemies' survival," Carla said.
"When there is a milk bank that is local in an area the breast-feeding rates rise, the awareness of the importance of donor milk increase, and the usage of it increases," said Julie Bouchet-Horwitz, the founder and executive director of the milk bank.
At this moment, the New York Milk Bank has 112 active donors. There are 17 milk depots in the state where moms can drop off their extra milk.
"It is emotionally satisfying you know that that milk is going to save multiple babies," said Elizabeth Cecala, who has donated 360 ounces and keeps on giving.
There are very strict criteria to become a donor. Moms have to go through a very thorough evaluation and testing, including blood work. The milk is then screened before given to a child.
The New York Milk Bank says there is a need of 200,000 ounces of breast milk for preemies. They hope to reach that number in the next three years.