MINNEAPOLIS - The University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital is now accepting donations of frozen breast milk for premature, critically ill and medically fragile babies.

A new program has reopened after a similar effort was shut down a decade ago, and the hospital has now partnered with the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation.

The hospital will be accepting drop-offs of frozen milk from local women and shipping it to the milk bank.

Donors will also have a blood sample drawn at University of Minnesota Health and sent to the Mother’s Milk Bank for testing as part of the donor screening process.

The Mothers' Milk Bank collects, processes and provides human donor milk to babies across the country, and ships the processed milk to every state, including shipping back for babies in Minnesota.

“It’s not just a lifestyle choice or a nice thing to do for your baby, we as medical professionals know it’s the healthiest thing and from a medical standpoint, it’s the best food for your baby, and protects the baby from disease,” said Mark Spitzack, a perinatal and pediatric support projects coordinator, heading up the program.

One ounce of human milk can feed an infant in neonatal intensive care for a full day.

Amanda Nix, a mother of two from Minneapolis, was the first milk donor when new program reopened August 1. She had a second baby earlier this year and her freezer was filled with more breast milk than she needed.

“I was so excited to be able to have something local where I could donate my milk and yes, I realize it still has to be sent off and tested but it still feels like I’m helping babies here and close to home. It felt good to me to give my milk to families that were having great struggles or facing great challenges and giving them a little bit of comfort,” said Nix.

To become a donor, milk banks ask that prospective donors go through a screening process that includes a review of their medical history and blood tests.

Once approved, donors can give excess frozen milk for up to several months from date of expression.

The milk bank tests and treats the milk and prepares it for use with fragile newborns when their own mother’s milk is not available.

After donors have undergone a blood test and been approved, they will receive detailed instructions on how to hygienically collect and handle milk.

To find you if you qualify to donate, read the guidelines here.