Utah Mother With Terminally Ill Baby Donates Breast Milk To Babies In Need

Jan 22, 2021, 6:35 PM | Updated: 10:26 pm

SPANISH FORK, Utah – Many of us feel disconnected from others right now. But a Spanish Fork mother, whose baby was terminally ill, has created bonds in ways few could imagine.

When she faced the unthinkable, she did what she could to help others.

It began with a donation.

Storytime is a cherished ritual for mother Caitlin Clanton and 3-year-old daughter, Navy. The story of Finlay Clanton didn’t go as hoped.

“We all got our handprint on it and then Finlay’s little handprint,” said Clanton, holding cherished art of the family’s handprints she keeps displayed in her Spanish Fork home.

Baby Finlay lived only 101 days. (Used by permission from the Clanton family) Baby Finlay's mother, Caitlin Clanton, donated thousands of ounces of breast milk to babies in need. (Used by permission from the Clanton Family) Clanton and her 3-year-old daughter, Navy, find comfort in memories and mementos of Finlay. (Heather Simonsen)

“This was the only family activity the kids got to do with him.” When Finlay was 7 days old, they received a cruel diagnosis. “(Doctors) told us, ‘Well, I’ve never seen this particular thing before,'” said Clanton.

He had a rare form of a life-threatening disease called Fanconi Anemia, an inherited condition.

Finlay’s stomach wasn’t connected to his intestines, so he couldn’t eat. Still, Caitlin did what mothers do. She expressed breast milk in hopes he could one day partake.

“Throughout the night, so I’d wake up every three hours. So six, nine, 12, three, six, nine. It’s very time consuming,” Clanton said.

In the meantime, she donated her breast milk to mothers like Elyssa Zimmerman, who couldn’t nurse her son because of an endocrine condition. “Pumping in and of itself is a disaster, right? It’s a nightmare, a full-time job, it’s so hard,” said Zimmerman, who lives in Orem.

The women met on Facebook and have become friends.

Months passed, but Clanton’s baby Finlay never could drink his mother’s milk.

Zimmerman was thankful for the antibodies the donated breast milk provided her infant son, Simon. “Especially right now, it was such a gift that she’s literally providing my son with a stronger immune system,” she said.

Finlay lived 101 days. Yet even after his death, Caitlin kept pumping. Clanton said, “I worked it out to be about like 34-35 gallons of milk.” That’s thousands of ounces to babies in need.

Now, she and Navy find comfort in mementos. “When I’m crying and like missing Finlay and she’s like, ‘It’s OK. He’s right here on my necklace. You can kiss him. He’s right here.'” She has found joy in watching the babies he helped to grow.

“Just so much gratitude for the work that it takes to have done what she did both physically and emotionally,” Zimmerman said.

Clanton said donating her breast milk has helped her as well. “(It’s) so comforting to know that they’re going to keep growing and thriving. It just seems a small thing to do, like, I was like, ‘Oh, I have extra,’” Clanton said.

She formed a sisterhood among the mothers at a time when connection is in short supply. “Just them like stopping by and asking me, like texting me like, ‘Oh hey, like how are you doing?'” Clanton said.

“There is a level of kindness and humanity there that just boggles my mind,” Zimmerman said.

Kindness and generosity changed the ending to Finlay’s story, to goodness that lives on in others.

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Utah Mother With Terminally Ill Baby Donates Breast Milk To Babies In Need