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Born too early – Lithuania

The care that can now be given to babies born as early as 23 – 24 weeks gestation means that their chances of survival have increased greatly in the past couple of decades. However, they inevitably face a long stay in hospital, need weeks of intensive care and sadly some do not survive or they develop life-long problems as a result of their premature birth. This little girl was very fortunate. Once she was stable enough she received skin to skin care (also known as kangaroo care) every day which meant she was close to her mother, feeling her heart beat and hearing her breathe, just as she had done before she was born. It also helps the mother to bond with her baby and relax and enjoy this very special time. 

Another benefit for this baby was that she received all of her own mother’s milk from her second day onwards. On her first day of life however she needed a little help in the form of donor milk. Donor milk is a very good second best to a mother’s own milk but it still falls far short of the unique and living fluid that the baby’s own mother makes for her child with antibodies tailored to any infections that they come into contact with and able to be given very soon after it is expressed by the mother. Some mothers struggle to make enough milk whilst others get there very soon. On day 1 no-one knows what the situation will be so those first tiny feeds of donor milk may be the start of  many over the coming weeks or they may be a very short temporary bridge to the baby getting all of his or her own mum’s milk. Ensuring the mother gets all the help and support she needs is vital and this should be started as soon as the baby is born.

In this case, only 15 mls of donor milk were all that was required, and this was fed over the course of her first 24 hours of life;  such a small amount and yet so important as it helps the baby’s digestive system start to work and to pass the meconium as well as to start to develop a healthy gut microbiome that plays such an important role in ensuring a healthy gut and a healthy immune system.  

By the second day this Mum was producing enough of her own milk and this then continued throughout her baby’s hospital stay. As the mother says ‘There was no need for formula and she didn’t have gut problems’. She is happy to have gone on to become a milk donor and to help other premature babies in the hospital through the local milk bank. As for her own baby, she grew well, increasing her weight from a tiny 514 g (think a bag of sugar) to 1170g at 50 days of age. You can see from the photos how she has grown as she enjoys her skin to skin time and also having a rest after her first bath!

Relaxing after her first birth

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