Kayden Slottkelooks extremely small for his age: He is seven months old and weighs about 14 pounds.
But when the Alberta, Canada baby was born on Nov. 18, he weighed a little more than 1 pound, and medical professionals fought for months to save his life.
Global News in Canada reports Kayden was born extremely prematurely after just 24 weeks in the womb.
His mother, Renate Slottke, said Kayden was due on March 6, but he arrived four months early. She and Kayden spent five months at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton until Kayden was well enough to go home, according to the report.
“It was an amazing but scary experience at the same time. There’s a lot of tears and a lot of heartache,” Slottke said.
Dr. Manoj Kumar said more babies like Kayden are surviving at early stages of pregnancy at their hospital. He praised Renate for dedicating herself to Kayden all those months and sacrificing so much time away from her other four children.
“She participated in his care and that’s another thing that we recommend and promote for families these days,” Kumar told the news outlet. “It’s been shown that it improves the outcomes for these children.”
Cathy Ward, a head nurse at the hospital, said Kayden now is thriving at home.
“She was very committed and very determined that her little boy was going to make it and come home and he did it, and he’s thriving,” Ward explained.
Ward and Kumar explained that very premature babies often struggle with health issues, such as immunity to disease and sometimes long-term disabilities. Despite potential for future health problems, they and Kayden’s family are very thankful that he is alive and doing well at home.
“The NIC Unit – I give them the best praises because they saved my baby’s life,” Renate said.
Some babies are surviving even earlier than Kayden. British toddler Kalel Fitz was born after just 23 weeks in his mother’s womb, and doctors gave him a small chance of survival, according to The Daily Mail. His feet were so tiny that they measured just 1 inch long, and his weight was 1 pound, 8 ounces. He now is a toddler.
Twins Imogen and Annabelle Weir are another example. Born at 23 weeks in April 2016, they are believed to be the youngest and smallest twins to survive in Scotland, according to the BBC.
These babies’ survival stories and a growing body of research are prompting doctors to reconsider the point of viability. Generally, 24 weeks has been accepted as the point when babies can survive outside the womb; however, studies have found more babies are surviving at 23 and even 22 weeks.
A study published in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 23 percent of premature infants are surviving birth as early as 22 weeks.
Earlier this year, a study out of Duke University similarly found that more babies are surviving at the 23 week mark. The researchers found a “small but significant drop in fatalities for babies born between 23 and 37 weeks gestation,” as well as a decrease in premature babies manifesting with neurophysiological problems, the Daily Mail reported.