CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) –We’ve all heard that breast milk is liquid gold for babies, but not so much if you don’t have it. When formula isn’t an option, donor milk can fill the gap. Healthcare professionals said in some cases it could be the difference between life and death.

Experts said donating milk is just as easy as donating blood and the benefits are similar, but it doesn’t only go to babies in the hospital. Families who can’t produce it benefit from the service as well.

“Ideally, a lactating individual would be able to provide all the breast milk their child may need but in certain circumstances, they may not be able to provide enough milk for their child or any milk at all,” said Jennifer Lotton, C-UPHD’s breastfeeding consultant.

Sometimes for those families, formula is simply not enough. Champaign-Urbana Public Health District has gotten 10,000 ounces or 2,500 4-ounce bottles just this year and they’re already needing more.

“We count on women — people that are making milk to be able to donate their extra milk,” said Chris Wetzel, Carle NICU nurse.

While milk from the mother would be best, they said donor milk is a close second and unlike formula, it gives babies nutrients that are not as harmful.

Carle NICU nurse, Chris Wetzel, said she has seen what happens when donor milk isn’t available and when formula isn’t an option.

“It didn’t take many years to see that NICU’s that were using the donor milk versus NICU’s that did not have the donor milk had better survival rates,” said Wetzel.

Lotton said understanding this importance has pulled her to want to get involved. After years of explaining the benefits, she chose to be a part of it.

“Having that sense of relief that they can be accessing that milk to support the immune system of their children is indescribable,” said Lotton.

If you’re interested in becoming a donor, you can start by registering with Milk Bank. Once approved donations can be made at C-UPHD.