MIDLOTHIAN, Va. -- Inside Midlothian mom Caroline Browell's freezer is life-saving medicine for babies in the NICU up and down the East Coast.
"This is just some frozen milk from prior pumps," Browell said when she opened her freezer. "With my first baby, I sent them 2200 ounces, and I think with this baby I am close to 800 or 900 ounces at this point."
Browell pumps, stores, and ships her extra breast milk to the milk bank at the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk.
"They ship me a cooler when I request one, they provide me a prepaid shipping label, and I just overnight it back, so I fill the cooler, and I put it on my porch," Browell said.
So far with her second baby, she's logged 450 hours pumping.
High-risk hospitalized infants get priority for the pasteurized donor milk, followed by outpatient infants with medical needs, and, finally, babies who don't have a medical need, but whose parents want human donor milk.
"Exposure to human milk as an infant is going to improve outcomes all the way through adulthood," Ashlynn Baker, Director of Milk Bank Services at the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk, said.
Baker said demand for donor milk has increased 20 percent since the formula crisis began in mid-February.
Much of that demand is from hospitals all over the country, including the vast majority of hospitals in Virginia.
"Their orders and their requests for donor milk are much higher than normal, and they're ordering more frequently as well," Baker said.
The milk bank director said "human milk is like a medicine" for premature infants on life support in the NICU.
The milk bank at the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, and the 27 others across the country, are unable to give pasteurized donor milk to every family in need, even as more and more frantic parents are calling because they cannot find their baby's formula.
"Supply is just far too limited to provide for every baby in need or every family that would prefer to provide human milk over formula," Baker said.
To increase supply, Baker and Browell hope other moms will do what Browell is doing.
"It's really important, it's something I strongly believe in, and it's a great way to make an impact for somebody else," Browell said.
Truly a labor of love from a selfless mother's heart.
"Any mom knows it's hard work, there's a cost involved — especially if you work," Browell said. "I feel lucky to be able to do it."
All potential donors have to go through a screening process before being allowed to donate.
To learn more about how to donate to the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughter's in Norfolk, click here.