The amazing premature babies saved by plastic bags

Wrapped up snugly in ‘sandwich bags’ was the best way to keep Emma Blakey’s newborns alive

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When a baby is born prematurely, there’s a lot that goes into keeping them alive. Monitors and tubes, machines and incubators – these are the things we’d usually credit with the tiny babes’ survival. But one mum has revealed the low-tech tool that became her babies’ lifesaver – a plastic bag.

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When Emma Blakey gave birth to her daughter Willow (above) at just 29 weeks, the 3lb-baby was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at King’s Mill Hospital, near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

“When my waters broke at 28-weeks I was distraught,” Emma said. “My partner Graham was so good, trying to calm me down, but all I could think was that my baby was in danger.

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“In hospital I was put on antibiotics to prevent infection. If I did get an infection, my baby could die. All I did for 4 days was cry, then I went into labour.

“From then on everything was a blur. I was in labour for 6 hours, then Willow was rushed to intensive care straightaway.

“I couldn’t even hold her, it was heartbreaking.

“Later that day I went up to see her, she was attached to a machine to help her breathe, but she was absolutely perfect.”

It’s then that Emma noticed the “little freezer bag” Willow was resting in. “I just couldn’t believe it when I saw her all wrapped up like that,” she said.

But premature baby charity Bliss says plastic bags are commonly used to help keep babies born early warm. “Often babies born prematurely are not able to regulate their temperature,” Chief Executive Caroline Davey said. “Research has shown that by placing these babies in plastic bags heat loss can be prevented and this reduces the rate of hypothermia. This is common practice which is widely used in the UK.”

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Willow thrived in her little bag and in January 2013, after 45 days in NICU, she was allowed home. So when Emma fell pregnant again she was relieved to hear that there was only a 10% chance she’d go into labour prematurely. But at 27-weeks it happened again. Zach (above) weighed just 2lb 15oz when he was born and had to stay in for 11 weeks after suffering from two grade 3 brain bleeds and chronic lung disease. “When little Zach was born he was even earlier and even smaller than Willow,” Emma said. But again, Emma watched her tiny baby flourish inside a plastic bag. “He was a little fighter, and was allowed home the day before his due date,” she said. “We were told that we’d have to wait and see if he developed normally.”

“Since then he’s had to go back into hospital as he contracted pneumonia.”

Now Zach is 7-months old, his parents are still unsure whether he has been left with any disabilities. “So far he’s been progressing just as his big sister did,” Emma said. “Willow dotes on Zach, they play so happily together. I’m so proud of my freezer bag babies.”

Photos: PA and Facebook / Emma Blakey

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