How a plastic bag saved a premature baby's life

Baby Leighton
Baby Leighton Photo credit: 7News

Using a method trialled on premature lambs, a baby born at 23 weeks was kept alive in a plastic bag.

The new neonatal technology is being developed in Western Australia, and it's already saving lives.

Baby Leighton was kept alive in a plastic bag filled with oxygen. 

Born 17 weeks before he was due, the tiny baby weighed just 760 grams. He was one of the earliest premature babies to survive in Western Australia, reports 7News.

He was considered potentially "unviable" by doctors because he was so early, and doctors asked his parents if they should attempt to resuscitate him.

"We were asked it a good two, three times - 'are you sure, are you sure?'' his mother Bree Viner told 7News "Because there is a very high chance he could walk away with long-term issues."

"I was terrified," she told 7News "I felt like if I just touched him that I was going to break him, like he was so tiny and fragile."

Now, Leighton is 8 months old and thriving.

Leighton and his mum
Leighton and his mum Photo credit: 7News

Researchers at the University of Western Australia are striving to improve the process, by filling the life-saving bag with amniotic fluid and attaching it to an artificial placenta, so they can replicate a womb to save premature lambs.

"We're getting better and better at maintaining extremely low birth weight" associate professor from the Women and Infants Research foundation Matt Kemp told 7News.

An estimated 15 million babies are born premature each year globally. Roughly a million won't survive.

Researchers are hoping their technology will shift those odds.



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