October 19, 2015 10:45 AM

After prematurely delivering all three of her daughters and having trouble breastfeeding twice, Katie Garza started a nonprofit called Pumping for Preemies. So when it came time to choose a platform for her Mrs. United States campaign, Garza’s choice was obvious.

The former Mrs. Texas competed to raise awareness of the huge necessity of donated breastmilk for prematurely born babies — and in July, she was crowned Mrs. United States.

Garza didn’t learn that donor milk was an option until after unsuccessfully trying to breastfeed her first two daughters, Phoenix, 6, and Gracie, 4. And even though she was finally able to breastfeed her third daughter, 7-month-old Aubrey, Garza was determined to make sure no other mothers had to go through the “heartbreaking” feeling of not being able to provide for their children.

“There’s something that was really life-giving to me a few weeks after having Aubrey,” Garza tells Best for Babes. “Knowing I had extra colostrum and milk that I could do something with, recalling how I wished I could have given it to Phoenix and Gracie when they were in the NICU, knowing I could help other babies that were like my baby — it made me feel like I was putting on a superhero cape!”

Kyiera Jones Photography

Garza launched Pumping for Preemies when Aubrey was 4 weeks old, and she credits the cause with inspiring her to enter the Mrs. Texas and Mrs. United States pageants.

“After Aubrey was born and I started pumping, I had a conversation with my husband one evening and I told him I wanted to compete at Mrs. Texas to create awareness about donor milk and breastfeeding support,” Garza remembers. “Pumping for Preemies came first — the crown came second.”

Courtesy Katie Garza

Since Garza launched Pumping for Preemies just five months ago, they’ve already donated 5,200 ounces of milk.

“Whenever I tell moms that three ounces can feed a preemie for an entire day, they’re dumbstruck. They can’t believe they can provide a whole day’s worth of nutrition and medicine for a baby with just one three-ounce bottle,” Garza says. “So that’s a lot of babies’ lives we’re saving.”

To learn more about donor milk and Garza’s hopes for the future of Pumping for Preemies, read her entire interview at Best for Babes.

Courtesy Katie Garza

— Andrea Park

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