Tiny but mighty babies provide a whole new meaning to life

Tiny but mighty babies provide a whole new meaning to life

Babies come in all different lengths and sizes.

Some arrive on time, while others arrive earlier than anticipated. An early birth is not uncommon, as each year, more than 15 million infants are born prematurely, according to the World Health Organization.

But did you know of preterm infants, micro preemies are born the earliest and the smallest?

Dr. Michael Cappello, a neonatologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., offers insight into the fragility of micro preemies and describes the intricate and valuable care they often require.

“Micro preemies are our smallest, most vulnerable babies who can be born as early as 22-23 weeks and may be as small as 500 grams (about 1 pound),” he says.

These infants are so tiny, they utilize extensive equipment to help their bodies stabilize and regulate. Dr. Cappello explains they cannot maintain their own temperatures and need artificial breathing support. This support can include nasal prongs to provide oxygen or a breathing tube attached to a ventilator.

Unlike a full-term infant, who usually weighs around 7 pounds, micro preemies are unable to receive milk from a bottle or through breast feeding. Nonetheless, the NICU provides the babies milk through a tube that is connected from their mouth or nose into their stomach. There is special preparation using an IV line.

“At Advocate Children’s Hospital, we have a small baby unit dedicated to caring for the special needs of these tiny babies. The nurses are specially trained to care for and handle these babies. The unit is darker and quieter to limit the number of sensory stimuli they receive, as it is known that this limitation helps with development later in life,” mentions Dr. Cappello.

Micro preemies rely on physicians, nurses, therapists and other staff to provide the supportive care they need to grow and develop. Although micro preemies progress at their own pace, they share a commonality — each day is a triumph.

Dr. Cappello adds these infants typically require hospital stays for several months and may require outpatient follow-up visits with various specialists.

Micro preemies can often bring a roller coaster of emotions for parents and loved ones, but it’s important to never lose hope and to always look for the silver lining during difficult days.

A final reminder? “Even though their challenges are many and their hospital stays long, many preterm infants grow up to be strong and healthy,” says Dr. Cappello.

Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital recently opened their state-of-the-art level III NICU, which provides the highest level of care for premature and critically care infants. The unit is six times larger than before, which allows up to 24 newborns to be cared for. The facility has specially trained neonatologists, nurses, therapists and staff along with the latest neonatal technology and monitoring. There are ten private rooms, one isolation room as well as overnight accommodations for parents, including a family lounge, kitchenette and lactation room. 

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About the Author

Kelsey Andeway
Kelsey Andeway

Kelsey Andeway, health e-news contributor, is a public affairs intern at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She is a senior at Loyola University Chicago earning a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Dance. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys dancing, baking, and taking long walks with her Chocolate Lab.