Ten Inspiring Preemie Stories

In honor of National Prematurity Awareness Month, we asked moms to submit a photo and share their incredible preemie story with others - and you.

Every story makes a difference. In honor of National Prematurity Awareness Month, Medela proudly supports the Ronald McDonald House Charities® and the important work they do to help families with babies being cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). We asked moms to submit a photo and share their incredible preemie story – the struggles, successes, and how Medela was there along the way.

Preemie baby Chet Atkins lays in a crib in the NICU with equipment attached to his mouth and body.“Chet Allen Atkins made his appearance on October 23, 2014 at 4:24pm by emergency c-section, weighing 2lbs 2.6oz and measuring 14.5in long at 30 weeks and 2 days gestation. It began on October 21st, when I saw my OB she noticed that I had a very low fundal height and wasn’t gaining weight. I went in for an ultrasound with my maternal fetal medicine doctor the next day October 22, well the findings were I had very low amniotic fluid, the baby had only gained 4oz in 4 weeks, and he was not getting a good blood flow. At that moment she admitted me to L&D for continuous monitoring, magnesium sulfate, and a rescue dose of steroids as I had two doses 4 weeks prior due to preterm labor. After getting all my meds in my system, the next day October 23 I had another ultrasound, they spent a very long time looking at everything and said that he would need to be taken by emergency c-section – the findings were worse than they thought and that he should have been taken on the 22nd. It was very scary not knowing what was gonna happen or what the outcome was gonna be. But I had faith and trust in my doctors and nurses and the NICU team. As soon as I got to my room I asked for a pump so I could start pumping for my guy. I was gonna make sure that I was able to give him the best thing that he could possibly have: My Liquid Gold! I am now pumping 50-60ml of milk with every session. It feels so good being able to give him the best and I love that the pump has a preemie selection. My little guy has had a few setbacks but he is starting to show progress again. He was on c-pap when he was first born but he was having a lot of spells so they put him on Sipap, but is getting his oxygen lowered every so often. He had a very bad case of jaundice and was on triple phototherapy and is now down to double. Then he was spitting up with every feeding and then he started to spit up a green substance so they took away his feeding all together and he had to have his belly pumped and get X-rays. He is now back on them and doing good. He is making his mommy and daddy very proud! We know that it is gonna be a hard and long journey for our little guy but we know he is in the best place he can be right now!” – Cassie S.

Vanessa gently touches her preemie baby Cru RyanLee with her hand in the NICU.“On the night of March 5th, my husband and I were going to bed after just having our maternity pictures taken a few short hours before. I also had my regular Ob/Gyn appointment that same day and everything was looking great! Up till this point I was having a normal first pregnancy with zero complications. The last thing I expected was for my water to break unexpectedly and be rushed by ambulance from our local hospital to Erie, PA for the fast delivery of our son: Cru RyanLee. Our little preemie arrived at 32 weeks, 5 days gestation. Nearly two months early, he surprisingly weighed in at 4 lbs 10 oz and was 18 inches long.  We were ecstatic to be first time parents but little did we know what a long and grueling road we had ahead and what our precious little guy would have to endure. It was an extremely long journey with a five week NICU stay, with so many ups and downs, such a scary roller coaster ride!

I had made the decision to try breast feeding while pregnant. However, since my son was NPO and then eventually on a feeding tube, the only way this was possible was through pumping. I pumped directly after delivery using the hospital’s Medela pump. Once I was discharged I LIVED with my Medela Pump In Style, religiously pumping every couple hours and even setting an alarm at night to pump. I had so much milk to give to the NICU they told me that I could start freezing it at home because they were running out of room! Words can’t even describe the feeling I had when they allowed me to push his first 30 cc of MY breast milk through his NG tube feeding.

After many setbacks we brought our son home after five weeks, but not before clearing freezer space first for all of my liquid gold. We transported him via a car bead, on O2 and an apnea monitor for the first month home. Once home I eventually switched to exclusively pumping his milk for him without nursing and used bottles instead for feedings. My Medela pump never skipped a beat! I love how easy it is to transport, as a full time nursing student I often was on the go and often pumped in the car and in places where the battery pack came in extra handy!

We are so blessed to have had the care our son received while at the NICU and for all of our family and friends’ prayers and support. And thank you Medela for making it possible to give my baby the best stuff for him and allowing me to connect with him in a way that would have previously been impossible. It allowed me to provide for him and give him something that the NICU could not, which was empowering. Today, he is a happy, perfectly healthy, 7.5 month old.” – Vanessa N.

Top image shows Ashley's son as a preemie and on bottom him at 16 months.“My son, my first child, was born at 24 weeks weighing 1lb 4oz. He spent 121 days in the NICU. In those 121 days, that 1lb 4oz baby changed my life forever. To have a 6 month pregnancy the thought of having our first child was just beginning to sink in before we heard the words, “Your son is in trouble, you and him will die if we don’t take him now,” was earth shattering. You have very little control or power in these situations. I waited 2 weeks before being able to hold my son for the 1st time & even then doctors weren’t happy we got him out of his incubator. I found my power in pumping. My husband found his power in encouraging me to pump & helping me make time to do so. We gained strength watching our son grow each day, counting grams and ounces. Our son is now 16 month and as our special care doctor puts it he’s a high achiever in his development. I say he’s all boy. He’s loving, funny, smart and so handsome. We are incredibly blessed. We know that every life is a gift and not a guarantee. We pray for babies & families in the NICU in hopes all babies go home as soon as possible and as healthy as possible.” – Ashley T.

Amy's twin babies lay side by side together.“I don’t normally do these sort of things, but when I saw that the Ronald McDonald house was to benefit from it, I couldn’t resist posting our preemie story. From the moment my husband and I found out that we were pregnant with twins, it was an amazing roller coaster of feelings and emotions. We had been told very early on in the pregnancy that twins often come with complications, one being premature birth. At 33 weeks I was admitted to the hospital with severe preeclampsia. Two days later, our beautiful babies were born via emergency c-section, 7 weeks early. They were in the NICU for 15 days, learning to eat and gaining weight. To say that we were overwhelmed was an understatement. Had it not been for the supportive and super caring NICU nurses and staff at the Ronald McDonald house, I’m not sure my husband and I would have been able to make it. We were an hour from home, in another state. The NICU nurses supported every choice we made and cheered me on as I learned to nurse and pump for two babies that I only saw and could hold for a few hours a day. The Ronald McDonald house became our home, where we’d crash and get a hot meal and a shoulder to lean on. Those 15 days were the some of the best and toughest days I’ve ever had. Leaving your small newborn children in the care of someone else is truly a humbling experience. However, we made it through with the help of some truly caring and compassionate people. Today, you would not know that our babies were born so small, they are toddling around like any normal 15 month olds would, bringing joy and love to our lives.” – Amy L.

Bags of Cathryn's donated breast milk with a lily flower.“I wish I had a preemie victory story to share for this contest, but I do not. However, my story directly relates to the mission of the Medela and Ronald McDonald House Charities Partnership and I hope it encourages other bereaved mothers to consider breast milk donation.

My beautiful daughter Lily was born just a few weeks ago on October 21. During the last few months of pregnancy my husband and I knew there was a good chance she would be premature due to a devastating diagnosis of a life-threatening health condition. She made it 39 weeks and 6 days, however she had already gone to Heaven when she was born. We held our precious baby girl for 5 too-short hours before saying goodbye.

Two days later my milk came in, and though I had considered donating when contemplating the different outcomes possible for Lily, I wasn’t prepared with any of the necessary equipment or supplies. Lying in bed that morning, heavy with grief and engorged with milk, I cried. My body wanted to feed a baby that never had the chance to nurse and my dream of nurturing Lily in that way would not be fulfilled.

I reached out to a close friend for solace and she helped me realize that I wanted to share what I considered Lily’s gift with babies in need. She provided words of encouragement and advice and also told me I’d have a pump by 9 pm that evening. Sure enough, I opened a package that was delivered to my door and saw a Medela Pump in Style Advanced. After sharing my plans with my sister she sent a care package with supplies including Medela micro steam bags and extra Medela bottles.

In just under 2 weeks with the support of family and friends and with my Medela pump, I collected 244 ounces of breast milk. I pumped thinking about Lily and how she would have benefitted from someone else’s donated breast milk had she been born prematurely. Her gift is the breast milk she did not need; a gift that will help me heal and hopefully save the lives of other babies.

Lily came into the world during the month of October, a month designated for pregnancy and infant loss awareness. This month, during prematurity awareness month, I will donate her gift to help premature babies survive and hopefully thrive. Her legacy will be the lives she helps to save.” – Cathryn B.

“At 30 weeks I went into the OB’s office for a routine visit. My Dr, being ever so cautious, sent me to triage for observation after having a slightly elevated BP.  My blood pressure continued to spike, labs showed protein in my urine, and I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. They told me I was not leaving the hospital until I had the baby. I was admitted and put on bed rest. The goal was to stay pregnant as long as possible. I made it one week before the doctors decided it was too dangerous to continue the pregnancy. I was given magnesium to prevent seizures, steroid shots to help mature baby’s lungs, and pitocin to induce labor.

Then on May 12th (my husband and I’s wedding anniversary) during a tornado warning, exactly 2 months before her due date, my little angel Isla Marie was born at 31 weeks gestation. She was 3 lbs 2 oz. I heard a tiny cry and felt  instant relief and joy. She was breathing on her own! I even got to hold her for a short time before the doctors took her, she was so beautiful.

Isla remained in the NICU for 5 weeks. The focus was mainly feedings as she amazed everyone with her ability to breath on her own. I pumped every 2-3 hours. Pumping allowed me to be a big part in Isla’s recovery. It also helped fill the void left from having to go home without her. I might’ve been unable to carry her to term but at the very least I could provide nourishment for her.

We brought Isla home on June 14th. She was exactly 5 lbs. I pumped exclusively for a month or so, until she was able to nurse. Isla will be 6 months old tomorrow and she is doing terrific! She is so attentive and full of smiles.  Just last week she rolled over for the first time! Having a preemie has been quite the emotional experience. Preeclampsia hijacked my pregnancy. It stole the last few weeks I had to feel kicks and hiccups from within. It took any chance I had to plan for my baby and threw it out the window. But it showed me what was really important, a healthy mamma and baby.

The support of the NICU staff, along with family and friends helped us through. I am so grateful to all the men and women who devote their lives to these tiny babies and their terrified mothers. I hope they realize the difference they make. My baby girl will always be a symbol of true strength to me. She fought more fiercely than she should’ve had to for this life. I hope she has the very best one possible.” – Tara S.

Annie holds her baby's hand in the NICU.“Complications began early in my pregnancy with Owen. I had a Subchorionic Hematoma that hemorrhaged three different times along with two different slow bleeds. Then at 24 weeks 4 days my water broke. Owen and I were the lucky ones and made it 6 weeks more on hospital bed rest. Born at exactly 31 weeks gestation weighing 3lbs 6oz, he was quickly taken to the NICU. He received one round of surfactant to help his lungs. He spent a short amount of time on si pap machine then went to a cpap and quickly graduated to breathing on his own. Owen was in the NICU for one month undergoing multiple rounds of treatment under the bili lights, gaining weight, and learning to eat on his own. During his time in the NICU I stayed at the local Ronald McDonald house. We lived over an hour away. I can’t describe how thankful we are for the Ronald McDonald house for the comfort and support they provided during this trying time. There were set backs and triumphs for Owen. I was able to be by his side for them all holding his small fingers, sharing this journey with him. I was pumping around the clock to provide breast milk for my son. Having the Medela Symphony Pump available at RMH and the NICU was crucial in establishing my supply to feed my son. Owen was released and sent home on an APNEA monitor. He is now a healthy, happy 8 month old who is still fully drinking breast milk pumped by a Medela Pump In Style Advanced.” – Annie B.

Emely's baby's hand holds her finger.“I was already a mom of a 6 year old boy and pregnant with a girl. On March 29, 2014, at 29 weeks, my water broke and I was admitted to the hospital, Beth Israel of New York. I was so scared and worried. They gave me steroids and other medications to prevent me from going into early labor. I was put on bed rest in the hospital until it was time to have the baby. I had doctors come and speak to me about all the precautions of having a baby so early. It was probably the scariest time of my life. A week later, on April 5, 2014 at 6:51am at 30 weeks my baby girl was born, 3lbs 6 oz. She was so tiny and fragile. I was so sad that I wasn’t able to hold her right away and I wasn’t able to breast feed her right away like I had planned to. She was put in an incubator with breathing tubes and a feeding tube. The first time I went to the NICU to see her, she grabbed my finger with her tiny little hand and that gave me all the hope I needed to cope with having a preemie. The nurses told me to start pumping right away so that they can give her my milk through a feeding tube. That made me so happy because I saw that as bonding with my baby even though I was limited to holding her. The hospital was so encouraging and helpful with breast feeding and gave me the tools and information I needed. I went and bought a Medela double breast pump and pumped everyday for 2 months and took my milk to the hospital. They even have a room with machines so that while I was there I was able to pump and leave my milk. I loved the skin to skin (kangaroo hold) I was able to do every day with her and that helped with my milk flow and gave me so much bonding time and comfort. The NICU nurses and doctors were great. I will forever be grateful and thankful for everything they did for my baby and myself. Having a preemie can be so hard, overwhelming and brings so many challenges along the way. I was very fortunate to come out of there with a healthy baby. Even though we don’t all have the same outcome and others go through it with more challenges, I want all moms with preemie babies to know that they are not alone and it’s ok to cry, and that their babies are so much stronger than we think they are. My little doll Kendall is now 7 months and doing great. Don’t ever lose hope! Preemies Rule!” – Emely S.

Brittany and her baby together.“These two are 34-weekers, born September 18th, my lights that shone through the darkness. Our journey was not a easy one, at 16 weeks I was diagnosed with a shortening cervix. I had weekly doctor’s visits until I was 19 weeks, then had Cerclage placed to hold them in longer and was put on bed rest. Things were great until about 28 weeks along. I started to go into preterm labor, one of the cerclage placed ripped, and was dilating. I was flown to Denver where they fortunately stopped my labor. Still on bed rest but started developing preeclampsia and needed to stay in Denver until I was 32 weeks along. While I was in Denver, I had the pleasure of staying at the Ronald McDonald house, I’m beyond grateful for all they offered for those who don’t have much. It’s amazing that people are offered such a wonderful place to stay when you’re so far from home. Came home at 32 weeks and things were going excellent until about 34 weeks along my preeclampsia worsened and we decided it was best for babies to be delivered. As a single mother it was the scariest yet greatest time of my life. My twins spent about a month in NICU due to oxygen issues and feeding issues but thanks to my support and support of our NICU nurses, the boys are now going on 2 months 2 weeks adjusted on the 18th. As a preemie mom I couldn’t be prouder of these beautiful little blessings, each day, each moment is a blessing. All in all our journey is just beginning and wouldn’t take back how it began because it’s made a stronger mother who fights for her preemies.” – Brittany D.

Abbie Fay at almost 4 years old.“On the morning of my 27th birthday, I was almost 29 weeks pregnant with my first child, over the moon excited, getting a nursery ready and teaching 6th graders. By the afternoon, I was experiencing contractions, though I was unaware that’s what they were, and afraid beyond belief as nurses and doctors told my husband and I that I was in preterm labor. Three days later, I was afraid but hopeful when I was told the baby was safe and we would be going home on bed rest. Within minutes though, everything changed and an emergency c-section would deliver the most beautiful 2 pound, 8 ounce little girl the world had ever seen. Six days later, Abbie was doing great, but I still had never held my little girl. The NICU nurse, Linda, who handed me my daughter so carefully, full of cords that constantly beeped and buzzed is forever in my heart. That was the moment that I truly fell in love and felt motherhood become me. That year, we spent Christmas and 2 months after watching our girl fight to breathe, eat, and grow. I spent 16 hours a day sitting next to her isolette praying, crying, and reading, to ensure I understood all that was happening. The 8 hours that I was forced to leave to sleep, were mostly spent crying. The emotion that goes along with being parents of a preemie in the NICU are beyond describable. The care that we were all given by the nurses and doctors there can never be repayed! Today, Abbie Fay, our beautiful fighter, is a feisty, smart, and loving almost-4 year old. We were and are blessed beyond words. Though there have been struggles, therapy, countless appointments, specialists, and stress our experience has made us better parents. I don’t take a moment of our time with Abbie for granted. She’s a miracle and an inspiration for hope to parents out there who are sitting in front of an isolette reading, praying, and crying! We love our preemie and wouldn’t change her for the world!” – Jennie K.

​​​​​​​The Importance of Breast Milk in the NICU

When it comes to pumping breast milk for your preemie, every drop counts! Studies show that double-electric, hospital-grade breast pumps like Medela’s Symphony are ideal for moms of premature babies because these types of pumps are the most effective in stimulating the release of prolactin, the milk-making hormone. Expressing milk for preemies provides important health benefits and empowers moms to have an even more important role in their baby’s treatment plan. If you’ve pumped breast milk for your premature baby, you know how special it is to have this connection between you and your little one.

Looking beyond the donations, these amazing stories can help encourage and inspire moms who may feel alone or overwhelmed with life in the NICU. At a time when most families only experience bliss, preemie parents often feel fear and anxiety – but none of us are alone and everyone’s story can make a difference. Preemie miracles remind us just how precious and fragile life really is – which is why each and every journey is worth celebrating.


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