Babies’ breathing, eating shows more improvement

By SHAYA TAYEFE MOHAJER, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, January 29, 2009

(01-29) 12:20 PST Bellflower, CA (AP) —
The nation’s second set of live-born octuplets has taken more steps toward improbable survival.
All eight babies were breathing on their own and more than half were feeding on breast milk, three days after a Southern California woman gave birth to the unlikely octet.
Two of the babies were still receiving oxygen through tubes in their noses Thursday, but they were inhaling and exhaling on their own, the hospital said. All the newborns were expected to have the tubes removed soon.
Six infants were breathing unassisted on room air, said Socorro Serrano, spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower Medical Center, where the babies were born nine weeks premature.
The mother, whose identity remains a secret, had not yet been able to hold any of the delicate babies — six boys and two girls — who were born weighing between 1 pound, 8 ounces and 3 pounds, 4 ounces. She has been able to see them all in their incubators.
In lieu of names, the babies have been assigned letters A through H, in the order of their birth Monday morning.
Five babies were receiving tube-feedings of donated breast milk every three hours on Thursday, Serrano said.
The stomach of Baby F didn’t absorb the first feeding he was given Wednesday and it was stopped, said Miriam Khoury, clinical director of inpatient obstetrical nursing at the hospital.
All babies were being given total parenteral nutrition feedings, or TPN, which deliver fluid, electrolytes, calories, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fats into an infant’s vein. Such supplements are routine for premature babies.
The babies still receiving oxygen were E and G. Each was receiving less than one liter of oxygen per hour, a small amount, said Khoury.
The babies were expected to remain hospitalized for several weeks and could face serious developmental problems later on because of their small size.
The mother has begun pumping breast milk in anticipation of eight hungry babies.
And with feedings come diaper changes: those happen every two hours.
Khoury said the addition of eight babies to the neonatal unit had not stressed the hospital, which has handled a higher volume of tiny patients before.
Details about how the octuplets were conceived have not been released, but doctors not involved in the delivery believe the mother was most likely on fertility treatment.
“This shouldn’t happen,” said Dr. Daniel Mishell, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. Mishell recommends carefully monitoring pregnancies involving fertility drugs by ultrasound to avoid a high number of births.
Multiple births can be dangerous for babies and their mother, and in some cases, may result in lasting health problems.
Seven of the nation’s first live-birth octuplets have survived since they were born in Houston in 1998, three months premature.
Mother Nkem Chukwu and father Iyke Louis Udobi had used fertility drugs in the pregnancy.
The tiniest baby, Odera Chukwu, was born at 10.3 ounces and died of heart and lung failure a week after being born.
___
AP Science Writer Alicia Chang contributed to this report.
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