Little Sunday story time by Daniela

If you'd asked me if I planned on breastfeeding whilst I was pregnant with our first daughter, I would have told you, no.

That all changed when my waters broke in my 24th week of pregnancy and I began bleeding heavily. From that moment onwards, I knew I'd do anything I could to help her survive.

At exactly 25 weeks, our first daughter entered the world. Just before delivering her, the midwives couldn't find a heartbeat and no one in that room knew what to expect. I'll never forget the feeling of my midwife's hands tightly grasping the top of my shoulders and her sobbing, she's alive! It was an overwhelming moment of pure joy and utter fear of what was to come.

I was wheeled up to the ward and shortly after an incredible breastfeeding support worker came into my room. She asked me if I'd be happy for Ava to have donor milk until my milk came in, if it came in at all, which completely took me by surprise. I'd never planned to breastfeed Ava and I had never heard of donor milk. The support worker explained the benefits of breast milk, particularly the role it played in preventing a life threatening illness called NEC that premature babies often get and so of course, I agreed.

In the meantime, I would try hand expressing for Ava. I couldn't believe it, but the colostrum was flowing in abundance. Whilst I'd never planned to breastfeed, knowing I could do something to help her when all of my parental responsibilities had been stripped away from me and machines were keeping her alive, was the absolute best feeling in the world.

I knew I was lucky that I was able to produce milk and so I began expressing around the clock for her to be fed it through a tube. Unfortunately, I wasn't ever able to breastfeed Ava because it would always result in her needing resuscitating and eventually she was taken off my milk because she had severe reflux. After 3.5 months of expressing, I'd produced so much milk, I was able to donate hundreds of bottles back to the NICU to help other sick babies, which was an amazing feeling especially after we'd relied on others donor milk in the first few days.

Ava is now a very bright, healthy 5 year old and big sister to two little sisters. Our third daughter arrived 6 months ago and it's been so healing to experience breastfeeding her. All of our babies have been fed differently and all of them are thriving.

If you're someone who is fortunate enough to produce milk and you're thinking of helping others, donating milk to your local breastfeeding bank could be a really rewarding act of kindness.