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World's Smallest Preemies

The Earliest and Smallest Premature Babies Ever Born

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Updated June 09, 2014

Haydee Ibarra, 22, covers her daughter Melinda Star Guido with her blanket as they leave the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center January 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Melinda Star Guido, the third smallest surviving baby known in the world, was born on August 30, 2011 weighing only 9.5 ounces.
Christina House-Pool/Getty Images
To someone who has never seen an extremely premature baby, it's hard to describe just how small these tiny miracles can be. The smallest baby that I personally have ever cared for weighed just 480 grams - that's 1 lb 1 oz. He fit perfectly in my hand, but he was a big baby compared to the smallest preemies ever to have been born and survive.

World's Smallest Preemies

The average baby born at 22 to 24 weeks gestation, the very earliest age of survival for preemies, weighs just over a pound at birth. The smallest premature babies ever born weigh only about half that - around 8 1/2 ounces!

  • Rumasia Rahman: Born September 4, 2004, Rumasia Rahman is currently the world's smallest premature baby to have survived from birth until hospital discharge. Rumasia and her fraternal twin sister Hiba were born at 25.6 weeks gestation, just over 15 weeks before their due date. At birth, Rumasia weighed just 260 grams, or 8.6 ounces. She was 9.8 inches long. Rumasia's twin sister Hiba was more than twice her size, at 1 lb 4 oz and 12 inches long. Rumasia and her twin were delivered early because their mom suffered from severe preeclampsia, which can cause babies to be smaller than average for their gestational age. Although she was very tiny at birth, Rumasia is a normal 7-year-old. She had laser eye surgery for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and wears glasses, is smaller than other kids her age, and has mild motor delays, but shows no other long-term effects from her premature birth.
  • Melinda Star Guido: On January 20, 2012, Melinda Star Guido became the 2nd smallest baby in the US and the world's 3rd smallest baby to survive long enough to leave the hospital. Melinda was born at 24 weeks because her mom had dangerously high blood pressure. She weighed just 9 1/2 ounces at birth. It's too early to tell yet if Melinda will suffer any long term effects from her premature birth. She used supplemental oxygen at home to treat bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), and had to have surgery to repair a PDA and laser eye surgery for ROP. Her brain is free from any bleeding from IVH, an excellent sign for her future.
  • "Tom Thumb": The world's smallest surviving baby boy is a German baby nicknamed "Tom Thumb" because his parents prefer to keep his identity secret. "Tom" was delivered in June 2009 at 25 weeks gestation. He weighed 275 g, just over 9 1/2 oz. He wears glasses and needed physical therapy for his first year of life, but is otherwise a normal, healthy toddler.
  • Madeline Mann: Born in 1989, Madeline Mann is the world's 6th smallest surving preemie. Although she weighed just 280 g at birth (9.9 oz), Madeline is a healthy young woman who was a senior in college in December 2011. Madeline was born at 26.6 weeks gestation. Although Madeline is only 4 ft 7 inches tall, wears glasses, and has asthma, she has no other long term effects of her premature birth.

World's Youngest Preemies

The babies listed above have all had remarkable outcomes, and show no major developmental delays. It's important to note that these babies, although all very small, were all born at 24 weeks gestation or later. At such a young age, every day spent inside mom is very valuable and helped these babies to mature beyond their small size.

The outcomes for micropreemies are not always as good. Medical science is improving all of the time, but babies born at 24 weeks or earlier are at risk for a number of long term effects of prematurity. There are always miracles, though, as proven by the world's youngest surviving preemies.

  • James Elgin Gill: The record for the world's most premature baby belongs to James Elgin Gill, a Canadian man born at just 21 weeks 5 days in 1988. James was born so early that he was expected to die at birth or, if he survived, to have multiple and severe handicaps. James beat all of the odds though, and in 2006 was a healthy teenager heading off to college.
  • Amilia Taylor: American baby Amilia Taylor was born at 21 weeks 6 days in October of 2006. Because Amilia was conceived by in vitro fertilization, her gestational age can be pinpointed exactly, an imposibility for most infants. Although she needed oxygen at hospital discharge, was anemic, and has mild osteopenia, she is otherwise a normal, healthy little girl.

References:

Baptist Health South. "Miracle Baby Beats the Odds, Goes Home." Feb. 21, 2007. Retrieved from http://webapps1.healthcare.uiowa.edu/tiniestbabies/InfantReferences/TaylorBaptistHealth.pdf

Bell, E. "The Tiniest Babies." University of Iowa Children's Hospital. Retrieved from http://webapps1.healthcare.uiowa.edu/tiniestbabies/

Canwest News Service. "Miracle Child." Feb. 11, 2006. Retrieved from http://www.canada.com/topics/bodyandhealth/story.html?id=db8f33ab-33e9-429f-bedc-b6ca80f61bdc

Chang, A. "Palm-sized baby, 2nd smallest in US, is growing." The Examiner. Dec. 15, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.sfexaminer.com/news/health/2011/12/palm-sized-baby-2nd-smallest-us-growing?category=91996

Hall, A. "Meet the world's most premature baby boy: The incredible 'Tom Thumb', who at 25 weeks weighed less than a can of Coke." Mail Online. March 9, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1255657

Muraskas JK, Rau BJ, Castillo PR, Gianopoulos J, Boyd LAC. "Long-term follow-up of 2 newborns with a combined birth weight of 540 grams." Pediatrics. 2012; 129:1, e174-8.

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