Premature baby born at 23 weeks defies odds to survive thanks to cuddles from mum
A premature baby, born at 23 weeks, weighing just 1lb 2oz, is now thriving at home, after her life was saved by continuous cuddles from her mum.
Elsie Dutton wasn't expected to survive after her twin passed away in the womb, after mum Amy Dutton, 33, went into labour following surgery to separate them.
Doctors warned the family, from Barnsley, Yorkshire, that Elsie may also not make it, but suggested that the newborn's best chance would involve having cuddles with her mum.
Hospital staff explained that the best way for Elsie's heartbeat to grow stronger and start to regulate itself was by being held close to her mother's heartbeat, which would help simulate being in the womb.
The practice, known as 'kangaroo care', has been proven to help premature babies survive.
So for hours Dutton sat and held her tiny daughter close to her chest, seeing her baby daughter grow stronger every day.
Read more: Parents of Britain's smallest-ever premature baby finally get their wish
Elsie is now one of the youngest babies born in the UK to survive.
And last month, doctors at St George's Hospital, London, confirmed Elsie was finally strong enough to go home.
There, the infant and her mum were reunited with dad, Scott and big brother, Charlie, seven, after the family were forced to live apart for months.
"Bringing her home for the first time was honestly amazing," her mother explains.
"I almost didn't think it was real, the day felt like a dream come true.
"I've never felt such a relief as when we got to walk out of the hospital and take her home."
Though Dutton was able to hold Elsie briefly, for around 30 seconds, when she was born, she had to wait an entire month before starting Kangaroo Cuddles.
"Having to wait so long to hold her was really difficult, so when I finally did it meant so much," she says.
"It's crazy to think that me cuddling her was having such an impact, it saved her life.
"I would hold her and I could see on all the monitors that her heart rate was relaxing. It felt so special."
Watch: Doctors put premature baby into sandwich bag to keep her warm
Dutton, who works as bridal stylist, was actually pregnant with twins, but suffered from twin to twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), which is caused by abnormal connecting blood vessels in the twins' placenta.
It results in an imbalanced blood flow from one twin (known as the donor) to the other twin (the recipient), leaving one baby with a greater blood volume than the other.
At just over 23 weeks, Dutton had to have endoscopic laser ablation, which is a surgery to separate the twins, in London.
At first, doctors believed the surgery had gone well, but then the mum-to-be started bleeding very heavily which lead to her needing three blood transfusions.
"We lost the heartbeat of one of the twins, Dotty, and then a few hours later I had lost so much blood that I went into labour," she explains.
Elsie was born on December 2, 2021 at 23 weeks four days gestation, weighing 1lb 2oz – around the same as a tin of soup – and started Kangaroo care with her mother after a month in an incubator.
Read more: Premature baby born at just 23 weeks had hands the size of her dad’s fingernail
At ten days old, Elsie, who was diagnosed with necrotising enterocolitis – a hole in her bowel, had to undergo surgery and doctors warned she may not survive the anaesthetic.
"Doctors took me and Scott aside to say she might not survive the surgery," Dutton explains.
"They said with her being that small there was a chance she wouldn't survive the anaesthetic, and even if everything went ok she's still at risk of infection which she was recovering.
"We had no idea how long it would take because they wouldn't know how much of her bowel had survived until they opened her up.
"We had to wait three hours and it was the longest three hours of my life, we were just constantly clock-watching.
"It was a really scary time."
Thankfully, however, the surgery went well and after four months in hospital in London and one at a hospital in Barnsley, the family were able to bring Elsie home.
"She's literally defied all the odds," Dutton explains. "She's just amazing, doctors are always so impressed with her.
"At the moment she's still on oxygen but every time we go to a doctor's appointment they reduce the amount she needs and she'll be off it soon.
"Just before we left our doctor told me Elsie is the first baby she intubated that had survived.
"To think she's overcome all that and now come away with no issues, we're so incredibly lucky."
Read more: Premature baby born 15 weeks early and weighing just 1lb 6oz is home in time for Christmas
Commenting on the impact kangaroo care can have on premature babies' recovery, Dr Sijo Francis, Clinical Director of Children’s Services at St George’s University Hospital, says: "When babies like Elsie are born prematurely, clinical intervention is key but parent’s involvement also has a hugely positive effect.
"When mothers hold their babies in their arms for a long time, as they do with kangaroo care, stress for both mother and baby is reduced and we see improved short- and long-term outcomes."
The family are now fundraising for First Touch, the charity that helped save Elsie life, First Touch, and you can donate to their fundraiser here.
Additional reporting Caters.