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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
UK's tiniest baby unveiled
Aaliyah pictured at Birmingham City Hospital
A baby weighing just 12 ounces at birth has defied doctor's predictions to survive - and is believed to be the smallest to do so in the UK.

Tiny Aaliyah Hart fitted into the palm of her mother Lorraine's hand when she was born on May 27 at Birmingham City Hospital.

She was born three months early - and had grown far too slowly even during the six months she had been in the womb.

The previous record for a tiny surviving baby was thought to be held by Dylan Coles, who weighed 15 ounces when he was born in Liverpool in 2001.

I could not believe that something that small could survive
Lorraine Hart, mother
Mrs Hart, 37, was warned by doctors that Aaliyah had only a 10% chance of pulling through.

She said: "I literally cried and cried. I could not believe that something that small could survive.

"She was so tiny but she was so active. Her hands were going, she was her own little person and I cried for a long time.

"She was surviving - that was my main concern."

Tube-fed

Aaliyah is now off a ventilator, although she is still being fed through a tube.

Even during the pregnancy, the slow growth rate had alarmed doctors, but Mrs Hart and her husband Ricardo were determined to continue with the pregnancy despite their downbeat predictions.

She said: "When we saw the scans, her heart rate was still going and I said to myself, 'I cannot terminate, I cannot terminate.'"

Aaliyah's birth came after 15 years of trying for a baby.

Small but developed

Because Aaliyah managed to reach six months gestation, she would have an advantage over a heavier baby born earlier.

Consultants say that "small-for-dates" babies tend to do better, because their bodies are more ready for the outside world.

The length of gestation is more important than the actual size of the baby at birth when it comes to survival.

Even with this in mind, the sheer size of Aaliyah means that her survival is miraculous, says the consultant in charge of her care.

Dr Jeff Bissenden said: "Usually they are miscarriages, but she pushed out this little girl who wriggled around, waved her legs and said, 'I want to live'."

"It is amazing that this baby did not die.

"If you are that growth retarded the supply of nutrients is usually so poor that the baby is starved of oxygen and is stillborn."

No world record

However, despite her tiny size, she is not the world record holder.

The smallest on record is a US baby who weighed just 11 ounces at birth.

Advances in the care of premature babies mean that many more survive than did in the 1980s.

Twenty years ago, approximately 20% of babies weighing less than 1,000 grammes (2lb 2oz) at birth survived, compared with 80% today.

A spokeswoman for BLISS, the premature baby charity, described the case as exceptional.

"The fact that baby Aaliyah has survived is exceptional; not only is she one of the tiniest babies BLISS has ever heard of, but UK baby units face a constant struggle with staff shortages and underresourcing.

"She is a credit to their dedication and the increasing sophistication of care. This is an incredibly traumatic time for parents and we hope that Aaliyah will grow up to become a happy and healthy child as many other premature babies do."

There are 1,800 babies born every year in the UK who fall into this category.

The UK has the highest rate of premature birth in Europe.


SEE ALSO:
'My babies came 15 weeks early'
24 Mar 03  |  Health


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