Rising Above Challenges and Shipping Frozen Breast Milk to My Baby

In this guest blog, Lieutenant JG Kourtney Daughters, NC, USN shares her story about becoming a mom while serving her country in the United States Navy, the challenges she encountered as a breastfeeding mother, and learning about shipping frozen breast milk to her baby all the way across the country.

Authored By:

Lieutenant JG Kourtney Daughters, NC, USN

Kourtney is originally from Washington state, where she studied nursing and specialized in labor and delivery. As a labor and delivery nurse, Kourtney has helped thousands of young women become mothers and is passionate about breastfeeding. In 2018, she commissioned as an officer in the Navy and joined the Nurse Corps. She is stationed at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia, where she continues her role as a labor and delivery nurse.

Kourtney and her husband, David, welcomed their first child, Luke, this past Halloween. Eventually, they plan to return home to Washington where they can continue expanding their family while surrounded by other family members and friends, enjoy the beautiful Pacific Northwest great outdoors, and Kourtney can complete her degree to become a Nurse Practitioner!

My Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Story

In late summer of 2018, I decided to turn my life completely upside down and join the United States Navy as a Registered Nurse. I had already been working as an R.N. in my hometown hospital on the labor and delivery unit for several years, but I longed for adventure and hoped to travel. So, despite my initial fears and hesitations, I joined and drove away from my home state on the West Coast to embark on the nearly 3,000-mile journey across the country to the East Coast.

I am so glad now that I took that plunge! Little did I know at the time, but my soon-to-be husband had also joined the Navy several years before and, as fate would have it, we met at my first duty station – the Naval Medical Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia.  We were married eight months later, just before Christmas, and rang in the 2020 New Year with eager anticipation of starting a family.

Not too many months later, we found out that we were indeed expecting! We were over the moon excited, to say the least. I was hoping for a little girl. My husband was dreaming of a boy. Regardless of what the gender would be, we prayed for a healthy baby and looked forward to becoming new parents toward the end of the year.

2020 was simply put, a lot. It was a difficult year for everyone worldwide. But on October 31st, we were fortunate enough to welcome a beautiful, healthy baby boy named Luke and my attachment to him was immediate. 

I was able to breastfeed right away. I also began pumping because I anticipated returning to work at the end of my 3-month maternity leave. While in the hospital, I used the Medela Symphony® Double Electric Breast Pump and I loved it so much that I gave away a competitor's pump I had received from insurance and used the Medela Pump in Style® Advanced! That pump went everywhere with me and I pumped faithfully everywhere we went.

Kourtney at work with her Medela Symphony pump

When I returned to work at the Naval Hospital at the end of January of this year, my husband and I had to make the excruciating decision to separate our family. Because military childcare facilities (and most childcare facilities in general) have restrictions due to COVID-19, there was a waitlist to receive care where I was stationed. My husband had taken a much-needed job back home in Ohio and, without him in Virginia to help me, we decided to fly the baby back to Washington state to be cared for by my family. It was the most difficult decision and hardest thing that I have ever had to do in my life.

Kourtney pumping at her desk at work, using the Medela Symphony

On the night that I had to say goodbye to my husband and our son, I also had to work nightshift at the hospital. It was an extremely hard night for me emotionally, but I’m glad I went to work because it was there that one of my coworkers gave me a comforting idea – to ship my pumped breast milk across the country to the baby.

How I Started Shipping Frozen Breast Milk to My Baby

I had never heard of such a thing. Was it possible? I began to furiously search the internet for information on how to get my breast milk from Virginia all the way across the country and home to Washington state.  Could it really go 3,000 miles in a night?!

US map showing where Kourtney's breastmilk traveled when she shipped it from the east coast to the west coast

During my search, I stumbled upon an article on the Medela website about shipping breast milk. I read it frantically and took notes: freeze my milk flat for easier packing, buy a Styrofoam cooler, get dry ice, etc. Suddenly, I had hope. Perhaps I didn’t have to feel so far from my baby after all.

One of the suggestions that I took from Medela was to visit the website of a company that specializes in shipping breast milk, MilkStork.  I researched the webpage and decided to try it out. That week, I sent 48oz of breast milk across the country and home to my baby. It was such a tremendous feeling! Amid sadness from having to be apart from my baby while fulfilling my duty to the Navy, I found new purpose. I pumped with excitement at the thought that my baby would be able to receive my milk sooner rather than later and, once again, sense me close to him.

Kourtney ready to ship her breastmilk in special boxes across the country to her baby.Baby Luke on the couch next to the boxes of milk his mom shipped to him.

Unfortunately, I knew that my husband and I could not afford to continue to ship breast milk across the country on a regular basis on our military budget.  As the days went by and I ran out of miscellaneous items to sell on Marketplace to cover the cost of shipping, an idea struck me. Maybe I could reach out to Medela and ask for help. When I did, Medela graciously agreed.

As I write this post, it is 2 A.M. and I am at work being a nurse, helping other young women soon become mothers. I am also pumping.

Later this week, I will be able to ship home what I have pumped to my baby even though there’s 3,000 miles and an entire country between us. Truly, an incredible gift thanks to Medela.

Open MilkStork box showing Medela freezer bags full of Kourtney's shipped frozen breastmilk.

I am writing down and sharing my personal story with the hope that it would encourage other moms out there to carry on! Motherhood is a powerful experience and distance cannot overcome it.

Baby Luke drinking breastmilk that his mom had shipped to him.

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