LaQuasha Singletary was having a normal pregnancy until the day her blood pressure shot up and her vision blurred.

The Pikesville woman was rushed to Sinai Hospital, where she delivered a 2-pound, 8-ounce baby boy named Caleb Lyles 10 weeks sooner than expected.

Caleb's early delivery left him vulnerable to necrotizing intestinal disorder, a potentially deadly disease common in premature babies whose digestive systems aren't fully developed. Studies show feeding with breast milk exclusively reduces babies chances of getting the disease.

Singletary, 23, was able to breast-feed Caleb, but he also needed a special fortifier made from donated breast milk that contains nutrients premature babies require. Since Sinai is one of the state's few hospitals licensed to bank donated breast milk, she didn't have to use a fortifier made with less than ideal formula. The bank also provides milk to babies of mothers who can't breast-feed.

Sinai, which opened its milk bank in May, is part of a growing movement in the Maryland health community to make breast milk donated by other mothers more available in hospitals. So far only three hospitals — Sinai, Johns Hopkins and Saint Agnes — are licensed by the state to use donated milk.

In 2010, Maryland hospitals provided donor milk to just nine babies. A state legislative work group recently presented recommendations to the General Assembly on ways to increase those numbers.

Supporters of its use say donor milk can help save dozens of babies' lives.

"Very premature babies are at risk for a lot of problems," said Dr. Carolyn B. Moloney, attending neonatologist at Saint Agnes. "Babies who get their mother's milk or donor milk lower their risk."

Necrotizing intestinal disorder is the most common life-threatening disease in babies born early, developing in 10 percent of infants weighing less than about 3 pounds. In Maryland, 499 infants developed the disease from 2005 to 2009 and 79 died from it, according to findings by the work group. <link to full story>