World's most premature baby defies the odds to celebrate first birthday

·5-min read

Watch: World's most premature baby born defies odds to reach his first birthday and learn to crawl

The world's most premature baby, who was born at 21 weeks and two days, has marked his first birthday and learned to crawl.

Richard Hutchinson was born 131 days premature and defied the odds to survive, breaking a world record that stood for three-and-a-half decades. 

After his birth, on June 5 2020, the newborn's whole hand was the size of his mother’s fingertip, his eyes were fused shut and his blood vessels were visible through his skin. He weighed only 340g (just under 12oz) - less than a can of Pepsi.

But after six months in hospital, Richard was able to finally go home with his parents Beth and Rick Hutchinson, 36 and 40. 

Richard Hutchinson, the world's most premature baby, has defied odds to celebrate his first birthday. (SWNS)
Richard Hutchinson, the world's most premature baby, has defied odds to celebrate his first birthday. (SWNS)

After reaching his first birthday the Guinness Book of World Records declared Richard to be the most prematurely born baby to survive.

"Even though the certificate is in our living room, I still don’t believe it," said Beth, from Somerset, Wisconsin, USA.

"He was so tiny he could fit in my husband's hand."

Beth discovered she was pregnant on 3 February 2020, after suffering a miscarriage in 2018.

"When I found out about Richard I was ecstatic - over the moon happy," she explains. 

"I took seven tests just to be sure.

"It was a very faint line, so I had to make sure my eyes were not playing tricks on me."

Read more: Baby born smaller than dad's hand and given 10% chance of survival, finally makes it home

Richard Hutchinson was born 131 days premature and weighed only 340g. (SWNS)
Richard Hutchinson was born 131 days premature and weighed only 340g. (SWNS)
Richard's hand was the size of his mother's finger nail. (SWNS)
Richard's hand was the size of his mother's finger nail. (SWNS)

Having been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) when she was 22, which can cause fertility problems, Beth had regular ultrasounds to make sure everything was going smoothly with the pregnancy. 

"My 20 weeks ultrasound was normal and there were no indicators then that there was anything wrong," the computer science student explains. 

Watch: Premature baby, born 15 weeks early, weighing less than 1lb, kept safe and warm in bubble wrap. 

Just over a week later, after not feeling well, Beth visited the doctor for a check-up, and was told she was 3cm dilated.

"I didn't even know I was in labour," she explains. 

"I'm not going to lie, I was panicking a little bit. I wasn’t sure if he would make it and we'd fought so long to have him.

"I had a lot of emotions, but I tried to keep positive and stay as calm as I possibly could."

Read more: Mum proud of 'little fighter' with birth defect which means he was born with one arm and no legs

Baby Richard with his mum, Beth Hutchinson. (SWNS)
Baby Richard with his mum, Beth Hutchinson. (SWNS)

Doctors at the Children’s Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis tried to prepare the couple for the worst, explaining their unborn son had a 0% chance of survival.

Nearly 48 hours later, on 5 June 2020, Richard Scott William Hutchinson was born, 131 days premature.

Richard was born still in the amniotic sac and whisked straight into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

The first time his parents were able to see their newborn was around four hours later. 

"It was overwhelming and very emotional," Beth says of the moment. 

"I don’t think we said anything, but we cried a lot."

Rick and Beth Hitchinson with baby Richard, who spent six months in hospital before being allowed home. (SWNS)
Rick and Beth Hitchinson with baby Richard, who spent six months in hospital before being allowed home. (SWNS)

For the first month of his life, Richard's parents feared their son wouldn't survive. 

The newborn had to have several blood transfusions, as he was born septic, and was on two different ventilators.

He was fed through an IV for three weeks before being transferred to the feeding tube, and the first time his parents heard him cry was when he was four months old.

Beth said: "He didn’t really find his voice right away, and he now he definitely knows he has voice.

"Once he started getting milk he was like ‘ooo this is good stuff’, and that’s when he started turning around and getting better."

Richard spent six months in hospital before being allowed home. (SWNS)
Richard spent six months in hospital before being allowed home. (SWNS)

Richard eventually stayed in the hospital for six months, spending four-and-a-half of those in the NICU, before being allowed home weighing 9lbs 5oz.

Now he is thriving. 

"Since we've been home it's been non-stop," Beth said. "He has both of us wrapped around his finger.

"He's very silly, loves to play and goof around.

"He has done amazing developmentally and he’s basically on track."

Read more: Meet the 'Bubble Wrap Baby' who weighed less than a pound

Richard is now thriving at home, pictured with his dad, Rick. (SWNS)
Richard is now thriving at home, pictured with his dad, Rick. (SWNS)

On 5 June 2021, the family celebrated Richard's first birthday with cake and ice cream, and shortly afterwards they finalised paperwork with Guinness World Records for the youngster to officially became the world's most premature baby.

The couple believe sharing their experiences might offer comfort to other families in a similar situation. 

"We’re using Richard's story to help others, to give others hope," Beth adds. 

"We've had people reach out and ask for advice.

"Both my husband and I talked to several families who said Richard's story has helped their babies, which is the one thing I really wanted."

Additional reporting SWNS.

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