Ariel Matthews' breast milk continued coming after her son died at 11 days old, so she froze it and eventually donated her body weight in milk
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Credit: Ariel Matthews

When Ariel Matthew’s son passed away at just 11 days old, her breasts were still producing milk. So she immediately resolved to pump as much as she could — and donate it all.

“When my breast milk came in I was pumping a whole lot,” Matthews, 25, tells PEOPLE. “I decided right away to donate it, because I knew he wasn’t going to make it.”

The stay-at-home mom to Noah, 3, had a stillborn birth a year earlier and had hoped to donate 1,000 oz. of breast milk. That time she only made it to a still-impressive 510 oz.

“I think because he came early, I just didn’t produce as much,” Matthews says. “So I made it another goal, if my body would let me, to try for 1,000 oz. And then I just decided to keep going with it once I hit it.”

In total, she ended up donating 2,370 oz., about 18.5 gallons, or 148.1 lbs. of breast milk — more than her body weight. Between her pregnancies with all three sons, Matthews donated 2,801 oz.

“It felt really good to donate it all, especially because I would get hugs from the moms when they came to pick it up and thank yous,” Matthews says. “And that the moms were trusting me to give their babies my milk — it feels really good.”

“They would send me pictures of the babies right after drinking my milk, all passed out and full. So that was really cool.”

Ariel Matthews - 1
Ariel Matthews
| Credit: Sara Sanders

Her breast milk went to three different moms, two of whom never saw their own milk come in, and another who had adopted a foster baby.

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The San Jose, Calif.-based Matthews documented her story on Instagram, and as it went viral this week, she started hearing from people who were touched by her donation.

“It’s really, really awesome. If good things can come from a loss — if I can encourage people that this isn’t the end, we can get through this, and live a good life, and not let the bad things tear us down,” she says. “I like to know that there’s actually people being encouraged by this. I’ve even gotten messages on Facebook saying this has really helped me, that I hope I can be like this.”