California mom-of-five Liz Marquez was determined to breastfeed her preemie son Brixton until he was at least a year old, her friend Kristina Pulistar told The Huffington Post. So after Liz died unexpectedly of cardiac arrest when Brixton was only 5 months old, her fellow moms banded together to collect breast milk for baby Brixton.
Thirty-two-year-old Liz Marquez suffered a heart attack on December 7 and entered a coma. After eight days, she was declared brain dead, and her family made the heart-wrenching decision to remove her from life support.
"My first thoughts went to the children," Kristina said, recalling the moment she learned her friend was comatose. The two moms bonded through their local babywearing group, where Kristina learned of Liz's resolve to breastfeed baby Brixton for a full year. "I just had a feeling inside of me that I needed to help."
Liz and Brixton on the banner for the Milk for Brixton Project page
With the support of the Marquez family, Kristina launched the Milk for Brixton Project to spread the word and collect breast milk donations. Liz's husband Brian Marquez told NormalizeBreastfeeding.org, "I know how important it was to my wife that our child be purely breastfed for at least one year. I feel it's part of my commitment to carry that goal out for my wife."
The Milk for Brixton Project went viral with the help of Vanessa Simmons, a breastfeeding advocate and photographer who interviewed the family and shared their call for donations on her popular blog Normalize Breastfeeding.
Operating through email and a closed Facebook group, the campaign organizers received over 4,500 ounces of milk and are closing donations for the time being to let Brixton catch up with the supply and avoid waste.
"The response has been unbelievable!" Kristina told The Huffington Post. The Milk for Brixton Project has received contributions of milk, money, and other resources from countless companies and individuals, including actress Alyssa Milano who donated gas cards for the breast milk transporters.
While Kristina's initial goal was simply "to feed the baby what his mom wanted him to have," the overwhelming response has inspired her to expand on the campaign. "I'd like to put together an organization to help get donor milk to infants who have lost their mother," she said. "I would even like to help infants who have mothers with illnesses that prevent them from being breastfed. I want to make a difference and normalize donor milk sharing!"
Whatever direction her work takes, Kristina will always keep in mind the woman who inspired the Milk for Brixton Project. "Liz was an amazing woman and mother. Her children were her world," she said, adding, "She always held them close and did everything for them."