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World’s smallest baby boy goes home from hospital

February 28, 2019 6:30PM Reuters

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The baby boy five days after his birth in Tokyo, Japan, in August last year. Picture: Keio University School of Medicine via Reuters media_cameraThe baby boy five days after his birth in Tokyo, Japan, in August last year. Picture: Keio University School of Medicine via Reuters

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The world’s smallest surviving baby boy is home from hospital.

He was just 268g when he was born last August. In Australia, the average weight of a baby at birth is about 3.5kg, which is 13 times the weight of this boy.

The boy was born about 14-16 weeks early by an operation called Caesarean-section* at Keio University hospital in Tokyo, Japan, after he failed to gain weight during his mother’s pregnancy and doctors were worried for his health.

He was so small at birth that he could fit in a pair of adult hands.

The baby boy has now gained weight and is home from hospital after being born at only 268g. Here, he is five days old. Picture: Keio University School of Medicine via Reuters media_cameraThe baby boy has now gained weight and is home from hospital after being born at only 268g. Here, he is five days old. Picture: Keio University School of Medicine via Reuters

He was in the intensive care section of the hospital where doctors and nurses managed his breathing and feeding until he was able to breastfeed. He was in intensive* care until his weight reached 3.2kg.

He was able to go home on February 20, about six months after he was born and two months after the date he had been due to be born, said Dr Takeshi Arimitsu of the university’s School of Medicine, Department of Paediatrics*.

Dr Arimitsu told The Japan Times newspaper: “I want people to know that babies can return home vigorous* even if they are born small.”

The boy’s mother expressed her relief.

“I am grateful that he has grown this big because, honestly, I wasn’t sure he could survive,” she told news agency Reuters.

This is a recent photo of the now-healthy baby boy. Picture: Keio University School of Medicine via Reuters media_cameraThis is a recent photo of the now-healthy baby boy. Picture: Keio University School of Medicine via Reuters

TINY BABIES
This baby boy is the 24th premature* baby born worldwide who has survived after being born under 300g, according to the Tiniest Babies registry managed by the University of Iowa, US.

The previous record for a tiny baby boy was held by a boy born in Germany in 2009 weighing 274g.

The smallest girl was born weighing 252g in Germany in 2015.

Babies born under 1kg, which is 1000g, need help to survive as their lungs, heart and other organs aren’t developed enough to work properly on their own.

Premature and low-weight babies need special care in hospital while they grow and develop. Picture: iStock media_cameraPremature and low-weight babies need special care in hospital while they grow and develop. Picture: iStock

LENGTH OF PREGNANCY
The baby boy in this story was born at 24 weeks, or about 16 weeks early, which means he hadn’t time to develop or grow to a normal, healthy weight.

Female humans are usually pregnant for about 40 weeks before they have their baby. This is called the gestation period.

A baby born between 38-42 weeks is in the normal time range for a human pregnancy.

This baby Asian elephant was born in June last year at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, NSW. Female elephants have the longest pregnancies of any mammal. media_cameraThis baby Asian elephant was born in June last year at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, NSW. Female elephants have the longest pregnancies of any mammal.

Elephants are pregnant for 95 weeks, which is the longest gestation of all mammals.

Hippopotamuses are pregnant for around 35 weeks.

VIDEO: Fiona the premature baby hippopotamus goes for her first swim

The Virginia opossum has the shortest gestation of any mammal, at just 16 days. Mice have a gestation of about 20 days.

Generally, big mammal species have long pregnancies and small mammal species have short pregnancies.

GLOSSARY

  • Caesarean-section: a surgical operation to birth a baby that occurs when doctors believe the mother’s or baby’s health is at risk
  • intensive: very thorough
  • paediatrics: medical care of children
  • vigorous: energetic and thriving
  • premature: before it is due

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How heavy was this baby boy at birth?
  2. What is the average weight of a baby in Australia?
  3. How much did the smallest baby girl weigh at birth?
  4. What is the gestation of elephants?
  5. How long are female Virginia opossums pregnant?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Write a letter
This baby boy is now 3238g and healthy enough to go home after a 6-month stay in hospital.

Imagine you were this baby boy’s parents and when he was 10 years old, he asked you to tell him about his birth. Write a letter to your boy sharing his birth story and his first 6 months. Include some of the feelings you might have been going through and some of the treatment that helped him survive. Include details of how, when and why he was born, how small he was and how much he grew. Also include why his birth and survival was remarkable and featured in newspapers around the world.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social capability 

2. Extension
Find out about your own birth story and write a paragraph about your birth. If possible, include a photo of yourself as a baby.

Some questions you might like to ask your parents to help you get started…

How much did you weigh at birth?

How long were you?

When were you due?

When did you arrive?

Where were you born? Home? Hospital?

Did you need any medical help?

How much did you weigh when you were 6 months old?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English

VCOP ACTIVITY
With a partner see if you can identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.

Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you know anyone who was born premature? Have you ever visited a baby in a hospital? What was most interesting about your visit?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking.
Comments will not appear until editors have approved them. 

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