We’ve all heard breast milk is best for our babies, but this mantra rings especially true for preterm infants, who are more susceptible to dangerous intestinal infections when fed formula. But what if a baby’s mother can’t produce enough milk? Enter the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s, one of 11 accredited centers in North America that collects, processes, and dispenses donor human breast milk. Founded in 1984, the bank last year dispensed more than 360,000 ounces of milk (think: enough to fill 562 water coolers) to preterm hospitalized infants at 84 hospitals in 24 states.

To ensure the milk is safe, donors (lactating mothers who produce more milk than their babies need or, in rare cases, whose own babies have passed away) undergo health screenings and blood tests, and their milk is pasteurized, tested for bacteria, and frozen before staff members deliver it locally or ship it around the country. One downside: Insurance companies generally don’t reimburse the $3.50 per ounce processing fee (hospitals sometimes cover the cost). But for babies in need of the milk’s nutritional value, it’s worth the price: “Human milk is specially designed for human babies,” says Dr. Martha Illige, assistant professor of family medicine at CU Denver and the bank’s medical director. “Donor milk saves lives.”

1719 E. 19th Ave.; 303-869-1888; milkbankcolorado.org

How To Get Involved: If you produce excess breast milk, learn how to qualify to become a donor at milkbankcolorado.org or call the bank at 303-869-1888. Once you pass a health screening, you can pump and freeze milk at home and drop it off at the bank or metro-area milk depot hospitals.