Tiny Babies Face Gigantic Odds, but List Provides Sliver of Hope

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Babies, Research Reveals

Survival rates of preemies seem to be improving with each decade. Credit: Corbis

"My Child Made the Tiniest Baby List."

This is not a bumper sticker you want to slap on the back of your Buick. Tiny babies face gigantic problems. Children born less than 400 grams -- about the size of a potato -- usually have lives measured in days.

The good news, however, is that their odds seem to be improving. Slightly.

Edward Bell and Diane Zumbach of the University of Iowa started an honest-to-goodness list of the world's 110 tiniest babies born between 1936 and 2010.

After a girl was born weighing just 359 grams at the university, Bell tells Reuters news service he got curious. He and Zumbach began making the list -- drawing on everything from medical literature to the "Guinness Book of World Records."

Bell tells Reuters, based on the list, that somewhere between one in 1,000 and one in 100 premature and low birth rates can be expected to survive.

The little girl born at the Iowa City campus, by the way, is one of them.

The number of tiny infants who survive each year increases decade by decade, Bell tells Reuters.

All the babies on the list weighed between 260 and 397 grams after spending 22 to 34 weeks in their mothers' wombs. Bell tells the news services gestational age -- or weeks of pregnancy -- seems more relevant than birth weight in determining a baby's survival odds.

"A normally-grown 400-gram baby would be approximately 19 weeks along in pregnancy, which is three to four weeks before reaching a level of development that allows even a chance of survival outside the womb," he tells Reuters.

Three-fourths of the infants who survived were girls.

Bell and Zumbach caution their findings shouldn't raise parents' hopes too high.

"Since the birth of the first survivor below 400 grams in 1936, there have been something like 10 trillion babies born in the world who survived to go home with their parents, and we know of only a few more than 100 of these who weighed less than 400 grams," Bell tells Reuters.


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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.