HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As grocery stores remain void of baby formula due to shortage, parents are becoming frustrated as the need for the product for their babies grows dire.
The baby formula shortage has been especially tough for new mothers like Blanca Torres, who gave birth to her baby girl Estella three months ago.
Torres said Estella's first meal was donated breast milk because she could not produce her milk right away.
"It took three or four days to produce milk," Torres said. "It was a concern because I didn't know if I would be able to produce or not. Or if I was going to fulfill her as a mother."
Torres said she's thankful for the donated breast milk given to her baby from The Mothers' Milk Bank of Austin (MMBA), a nonprofit organization.
Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has teamed up with the MMBA to provide donated breast milk for those infants who cannot get those much-needed nutrients from their mothers.
The demand for donated breast milk, especially in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), rises.
The hospital located in northwest Houston will give lactating mothers a safe location to drop off their breast milk donations.
Tammy Sullivan, the NICU manager at Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, says they collect the donated breast milk from vetted donors.
"They have had a written interview, a phone interview," Sullivan said. "They've had a blood draw and exchanged some medical records, so they're vetted to ensure the milk is safe."
To become a donor, Sullivan said that mothers breastfeeding babies under 1-year-old are eligible to be screened at no charge.
"They bring their milk to the hospital, and then a courier comes and picks it up and takes it to the MMBA, and they process it," Sullivan said. " We're able to order it back. They send it through FedEx. It's completely frozen, and we have a special freezer that we keep in it keeps it extra cold and ready to use when we need it."
Nonprofit milk banks like the MMBA ensure that donated breast milk is safe and available to the infants who need it most.
The pasteurized breast milk dispensed is processed to meet the specific needs of fragile and sick babies.
Houston Methodist Willowbrook has roughly 4,000 infant deliveries a year, with an average of 400 babies being treated in the NICU annually.
The hospital is equipped to handle high-risk pregnancies as a level three NICU.
According to the MMBA website, the nonprofit has 21 years of saving babies. It's one of the largest suppliers of donor milk to hospitals across Texas and in 22 states.
Organizers say the milk bank is growing and meeting the needs of babies thanks to women committed to donating milk and increasing awareness about the life-saving properties of human milk, especially for the most vulnerable population.
There have been 7.5 million ounces donated since 1999 and 800,000 ounces sent to babies in 2020.
Sullivan says they need women to donate their breast milk to those unable to produce milk to feed their babies.
If you would like more information on donating, contact the Mothers Milk Bank of Austin at 512-494-0800 or Mother's' Milk Bank of Austin.