The first milk bank in Ventura County, which collects donations of human milk, has opened
It's a way to help premature babies, but is a little known resource.
Piper Ziv is carrying her three-month-old daughter Quincy and a large cooler bag, when she arrives at the Ventura Coast Milk Bank.
Inside the cooler are sealed bags of her breast milk, frozen and ready for donation.
The Ventura Coast Milk Bank is a way for lactating mothers to donate their milk for use by medically fragile infants in the community.
"I was blessed to have an over abundance," said Piper. "And I was sure it could be used by babies in need."
Breast milk increases the health outcomes for premature and medically-ill infants, Dr. Lisa Stellwagen explained. But a mother's own milk is not always available, and that's when milk banks are able to provide safe, donated milk.
"The benefits of human milk for premature babies born less than 1500 grams are so impressive," said Stellwagen.
"These tiny fragile premature babies born early leave the protective environment of their mother's body and for years we've struggled to feed them properly," said Stellwagen.
She said giving the babies breast milk helps with their nutrition, their neurodevelopmental outcomes and to help prevent a "bowel catastrophe" called Necrotizing Enterocolitis.
"Ventura Coast Milk Bank is the very first milk depot in all of Ventura County and will serve as a milk collection site where approved donors can come in and donate milk," said Emily Ostrowski, one of the founders of the Ventura Coast Milk Bank.
The milk is shipped out from the donor center and distributed to those in need.
For Piper Ziv, there was no facility like this locally when she had her first child. She said she ended up throwing away the extra milk she had produced because she didn't know what to do with it.
"I was throwing it away...little did I know there were banks! This time around I realized I could be donating this," she said.