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Some of World's Tiniest Preemies Are Growing Up Healthy

Two of the Smallest Surviving Infants Develop Normally, but Height and Weight Lag a Bit

Tracking the Tiniest Babies

While the researchers caution against considering their results as an expected outcome, it's important for parents of these babies to recognize that there's some hope.

"Good outcomes are possible even for the smallest babies," says Edward Bell, MD, a neonatologist at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital in Iowa City. He also says that for these tiny infants, the number of weeks spent inside the mother's uterus affects their chances of survival more than their birth weight.

In 2000, Bell started a Tiniest Babies Registry when he realized he didn't have good answers for parents' questions about these babies who were born very premature.

Although information remains scarce, the registry has more than 100 babies who have survived weighing less than 14 ounces at birth.

"Most of them are doing pretty well," Bell tells WebMD.

But this case report is not the norm, says Leslie Kerzner, MD, a neonatologist at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston. "[Rumaisa and Madeline] are two remarkable, isolated cases of survival of very low-birth-weight babies."

It's much more common for babies of this size to not survive or to have medical problems. "While these two girls may be the lucky ones, so many more suffer from hearing loss, vision, and movement problems, and [mental] delays," Kerzner tells WebMD.

She says we still don't know the long-term effects of the preemies' long hospital stays. Nor do we know how much the babies' discomfort and pain from their early-in-life medical care affects them later on.

Also, Kerzner says the report was not clear about how much special education or tutoring the girls need in school.

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