Bereaved mum pumps breast milk for 63 days after newborn's death to 'save another baby's life'

Photo: Sierra Strangfeld / Facebook
Photo: Sierra Strangfeld / Facebook 

US mum Sierra Strangfeld held her baby son Samuel Lee for three hours before he passed away in her arms and despite her grief, the bereaved mum spent the next two months pumping breast milk to donate.

Samuel was born on September 5 - two months before his November due date - after being diagnosed with Trisomy 18 in utero.

The condition which is also known as Edward's Syndrome causes severe developmental delays due to an extra chromosome 18 and is fatal before birth or within the first year of life.

Sierra declined a termination after receiving the devastating news of Samuel's condition mid-way through the pregnancy, writing in a blog post that she and husband Lee, "...were determined to carry and meet this sweet boy."

The couple also share daughter Porter, 18 months.

On September 5, they learned that it was likely Samuel would die in utero within a week, so he was delivered by c-section so the couple could spend as much time as possible with their son.

He weighed less than 900 grams and lived to spend three precious hours with his parents.

"Samuel only left my arms once, when he had an oxygen tube put in, otherwise he spent those three hours with us. I was able to do skin-to-skin with him and his heart rate and oxygen levels immediately raised. It was like he knew he was with his mum," she told Today.

She continued, "We got a few squeaks out of him, and spent those three hours looking at every detail of his tiny body. Those hours felt like minutes."

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Sierra had already decided to pump her breast milk to donate to other babies. It was a decision that would both give her purpose in her grief, yet challenge her immeasurably.

"It was something I could control," she said. "I couldn't control Samuel's diagnosis. I couldn't control his life or his death, but I could control what I did afterward."

She wrote in a Facebook post, "I couldn't save Samuel's life, but maybe I could save another baby's life."

Sierra pumped for a total of 63 days, freezing it in sterile breast milk bags to donate to Wisconsin's Mother's Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes on Samuel's due date of November 13.

"Pumping is not for the faint of heart. It's hard. Mentally and physically. And it's even harder when you don't actually have a baby," Sierra wrote.

"There were times I was angry because why did my milk have to come in when I had no baby to feed? Why was I waking up in the middle of the night for this? The other part of me felt it was the only thing connecting me to Samuel here on Earthside."

Sierra is now raising awareness about Trisomy 18, as well as raising money for a planned scholarship fund in Samuel's name with a line of t-shirts and jumpers.

"We lost the most precious gift life could give us, and I hope people truly see that every day is not promised," said Sierra.

And in a harrowing blog post detailing the family's grief she wrote, "There's not a thing we wouldn't have endured for Samuel. He has forever changed our life."

"We will tell everyone of Trisomy 18 - we want everyone to know about it and we want everyone to remember [him].