New Mum’s Experience Giving Birth to Preemie in Fiji Inspires Her to Help Others

A few months ago, Medela was approached by Michelle. 10 years ago, Michelle gave birth to a very sick baby girl, 9 weeks prematurely, in Fiji. Her baby girl hung on to life for 4 weeks, while Michelle waited in intensive care for her baby to be medevacked back to Australia...

During this time, She became acutely aware of just how hard other countries have it when it comes to health care and just how extremely lucky we are to have the facilities we have in Australia.

Michelle’s struggle was aired on Today Tonight, the newspaper and also ABC radio at the time.

Many Countries Don’t Have the Essentials

During this time, Michelle had a few things that she couldn’t have done without, but that all of the local mothers had to do without. The main one was a breast pump.

For any baby that has feeding issues, a breast pump can mean the vital difference between being able to express enough milk and having to substitute feed.

In Fiji, there is so little money that Michelle watched many mothers sit and hand express for hours to get enough milk to feed their babies.

Unfortunately, hospitals there also don’t provide formula if breastfeeding is not established and so many babies begin their lives on watered-down milk powder or long-life milk. In Australia, this would be an outrage!

As a result, Michelle decided to do what she could to help mums in Fiji by donating to hospitals.

Medela was so pleased in being able to be a part of this cause and donated many manual Harmony Breastpumps for Michelle to take back.

We also had a few questions for Michelle about both her charity and her experience with a premature baby. Her answers are below.

Why Did You Want to Donate Products to Mums in Hospitals?

The birth of a baby is such a massive change in a women's life. Our bodies and minds undergo major changes. We also have to adapt to looking after a newborn, even when all is going well.

Establishing breastfeeding, as we all know, can be challenging. This is true for both mothers and newborns.

In third world countries like Fiji, where there isn't the money to buy formula, it is even more vital that breastfeeding is established as soon as possible.

Why is a Breast Pump So Important for These Mums?

There are many ways that breast pumps can make life easier for new mums. For starters, they can contribute to breastfeeding success for a mother. They help to encourage milk production and enable adequate milk extraction. This is especially important when babies are sick or premature and can't feed.

After giving birth to a premature baby in Fiji, I came to see just how little they have in their hospitals and just what a difference a simple tool such as a breast pump can make.

I was lucky enough to have a Medela hand pump with me and was able to get enough milk and keep my supply up for my very sick baby.

As the midwives watched me tip out the remaining breast milk I had pumped, they stopped me and asked if they could please use it for the other babies. I ended up providing milk for 3 other babies in the ward.

Now, I am a nurse. I am also on my way to becoming a midwife. As such, I know the importance of breast pumps. I also know that they are used as a vital tool in Australian maternity wards.

I felt that I needed to help in any way I could, so, I started emailing companies who might be able to help me in my endeavour. I also asked for donations of second-hand breast pumps from people locally.

I have just returned from Fiji, where I donated 170kg worth of products. This included 42 breast pumps and other maternity products! 15 of these breast pumps where brand new and were donated by Medela.

The Suva and Lautoka hospitals were humbled and extremely grateful for these gifts.

If You Could Give a Message to Any Mums Who Have Had a Baby Born with Complications, What Would it Be?

Educate yourself as much as possible and get involved in caring for your baby. It is hard not being able to have that normal bonding experience from the beginning. Being present can help with this.

On the other hand, let others help you. You literally can't do everything and being able to focus on your baby is very important.

Don't let your own health suffer! Your baby needs you to be healthy and happy so that you can take care of it. Eat healthy and get enough rest.

Remember that you are not alone! Talk to others who have been there.

And DONT GIVE UP! We were told many times that our baby was not going to make it. Today she is an incredibly healthy happy 10-year-old.

What Gave You the Most Hope During Your Difficult Time with a Premature baby and What Do You Think Gives Other Mums Hope?

Holding her skin-to-skin, helping to care for her and cherishing each change in condition. Enjoy every second of time you have with your baby. Keep up with what the doctors and nurses are doing with her care.

In my case, I just kept on keeping on. My baby needed me to be there. Take each day as it comes.

If you would like to help Michelle with her mission please contact Medela at who can put you in touch.

Has anyone that you know had a child arrive early? What advice would you give to new mums who are looking after a baby that is in a difficult situation? Let’s have a conversation here or on our Medela Australia Facebook page.