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SAN DIEGO — Parents across the nation are dealing with a dire situation — a widespread baby formula shortage.

The University of California Health Milk Bank, operated at UC San Diego, is the region’s first milk bank and has only been open for the last two years. As mothers across the nation struggle to find baby formula on shelves, the milk bank is working to get breast milk to the sickest babies.

“It’s premature babies,” explained Dr. Lisa Stellwagen. “Babies with cardiac illness and other sick babies that would be typically given donor milk if mother’s milk was insufficient.

“We’re really not talking about healthy, full term babies unless the family has an interest in feeding the baby donor milk. We’re talking about these really, very ill children.”

Healthy breastfeeding or pumping mothers who have 100 ounces or more of extra frozen milk are welcome to donate. The milk is tested and processed using high quality laboratory practices.

“There’s a shortage going on right now and I think one of the big messages I would like to send is that there are women out there who have extra milk and may be interested in helping other families,” Stellwagen said. “A way to help other families and make sure that milk gets to the most fragile kids among us is to donate to an approved milk bank.”

Parents who wish to donate human milk can do so through the UC Health Milk Bank’s secure portal. Through the portal, you can register, access your account, schedule your donation and blood test, and communicate with a milk bank coordinator.

Parents and hospitals can also order milk through the bank’s website.