One Fort Myers mother is on a mission and is turning her traumatic experience into her motivation for giving back.
There’s a cute Christmas card photo of Candy Quiróa’s family — she’s smiling as she holds her first-born, Zael, a 3-year-old boy she once worried wouldn’t survive his premature birth.
“He was born at 24 weeks,” she said. “I wasn’t able to produce the first days, so I was told about donor milk and how beneficial it is to preemies.”
Breastmilk donations kept her newborn alive as he spent his first 130 days of life inside Golisano Children’s Hospital.
“They really depend on this milk to live. It’s like more than nutrition for them, it’s medicine,” Quiróa said.
Now, Quiróa is thankful for two healthy baby boys and proudly poses them next to the breastmilk she’s donating. It’s her way of giving back to the community that helped her start her family.
“Once I started overproducing, I thought, I need to do the same for these babies because there are so many moms who can’t produce the first days. They’re stressed or trauma of premature labor, so they need that extra help,” she said.
As Golisano’s milk lab technician Beth Futral oversees the hundreds of ounces Quiróa donates helping.
“It’s so special because Candy was a NICU parent here, so to see Candy’s milk come back into our community is really exciting and milk donating can feed thousands of babies,” Futral said.
Quiróa’s most recent donation: 163 ounces.
“When you think about the fact that some of these babies only eat 10 milliliters a day, a donation of 163 ounces is huge,” Futral said, “so we truly appreciate her donation and we’re able to get that milk back to the babies that their mothers are struggling to make milk.”
“I cried,” Quiróa laughed. “I cried because that’s where it all started for us and I just got emotional knowing it was going to our community, to babies right here in our area.”
When it comes to breastmilk making a difference, this mother knows best.
Golisano says one bottle of donated breastmilk can feed multiple babies since many eat about 10 milliliters per day. They hope those interested in donating breastmilk reach out to their lactation services.