Premature Birth, RSV, and The Young Mommy

Meet Mason. Mason is now a happy-go-lucky 4-year-old rambunctious little boy who enjoys soccer and playing the drums almost as much as he enjoys kisses from his mommy.

Since his mom and dad had the resources to take good care of him, he was able to defy the odds of being born premature – 28 weeks and 3 days gestation to be exact. At birth, Mason was 2 pounds, 4 ounces, and 14 inches long, and had to be rushed off to the NICU. His mother was unable to see him for his first 48 hours of life. On top of that, she couldn’t hold him until he was 6 days old because his doctors didn’t want to risk taking him out of his incubator.

Mason was hospitalized for 9 weeks and by the time his parents were able to take him home, he was 6 pounds, 4 ounces. Sitting there waiting as Mason attempted his third car seat test – a test in which premature babies must sit up in their car seat for a total of one hour in order to see if they will be able to make it home in the car while still breathing – Mason’s mother was in agony. He had failed his previous two car seat tests so this one was crucial. I cannot even begin to fathom what Mason’s mother must have been going through. At last, the 60 minutes were up and Mason had successfully passed his car seat test!

The tests and trials of life reserved for premature babies, however, proved to be a totally different story. Mason quickly had to be hospitalized again because of fluid in his lungs and chronic lung disease. During this period, Mason required oxygen for seven stressful weeks.

I was fortunate enough to attend a luncheon hosted by Edelman Multicultural. The luncheon, entitled Protection Connection: Safeguarding the Health of Premature Babies, focused on providing knowledge on premature births and dispelling some of the myths that people may be hearing through the grapevine. Leading the seminar were Mason’s mother, Kim Sutherland, a brave woman who graciously shared her story; neonatologist Dr. Sergio Golombek, and Dr. Winston Price. I was particularly excited to attend this luncheon because I have a vested interest in preemies, as I was one of them.

Approximately 100,000 multicultural premature babies are born per year in the United States*, most of them far from healthy. In fact, the term “healthy preemie” is a myth. After all, if full term infants are susceptible to dangers and sickness, then premature infants are that much more vulnerable. They have a greater risk of health problems and disabilities, including undeveloped lungs, and an immature immune system*. They also have a greater risk of contracting RSV*.

Also known as, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, RSV is one virus that places premature babies at increased risk for hospitalization. Since RSV often presents symptoms like the common cold, many parents are not aware of it. And many cannot afford quality physicians who will screen for RSV. As a result, approximately 10 times more infants die from RSV than the flu each year*. Sad, but true.

I have to admit that as I sat there listening to the risk factors for premature infants who contract RSV, such as being on the lower end of the economic ladder and living in somewhat crowded conditions, reminded me a lot of the young mommy or the single mommy because, let’s face it, our money is not quite right yet. We’re working on it and I’m proud of every young mommy who’s working her butt off, but financially, we’re still not there yet. As I sat there, I became alarmed because if it affects even just one of us, it affects all of us.

Although some premature babies catch up developmentally, they typically tend to be the exception. I’m sure you can tell me the story of your neighbors’ cousins’ sisters’ daughter who was a preemie and went on the win a full academic scholarship to Harvard. She’s the exception. So was I. So will be Mason.

There is currently no cure for the RSV infection, but there is a silver lining though. As parents, we can take certain steps to protect our children from RSV such as washing clothes, bedding, toys, and play area often; keep our babies away from people with a cold; and never EVER let anyone smoke around our kids. Even if the smoker washes their hands afterwards, the smell will still linger on their clothes and in their hair. This is no bueno for baby girl or baby boy.

We can also know the symptoms of RSV – fever; persistent coughing or wheezing; rapid, difficult, or labored breathing; unusual lethargy or tiredness; decreased intake in liquids; and/or a bluish tint to the mouth or under the fingernails – and ask our pediatricians to screen for it. I repeat, ask our pediatrician to screen for RSV because most of them don’t and won’t unless we request it.

As I stated before, if it affects one of us, it affects all of us. Let’s work to strengthen the infant, the family, and the young mommy community. Increase your knowledge about RSV and spread the word.

*Statistics provided by Edelman Multicultural luncheon entitled Protection Connection: Safeguarding the Health of Premature Babies



  1. Morgan wasn’t a preemie, but she was diagnosed with RSV at just a few months old. Absolutely no fun. Scary. I couldn’t imagine being the mom of a preemie with the condition.

    Thanks for the article, Alicia. Very informative.

  2. Great article. Educating ourselves on infant/childhood ailments is the key. We as parents are the only people that can advocate for our children.

  3. Inyeda — I completely agree. We ARE the only ones who can advocate for our children because we’re with them 24/7. I love doctors, but some of them see the same thing over and over again and it can be hard for them to really focus on our children as a person.

  4. Trey Junior says:

    Premature babies need a lot of care and attention after leaving the womb so this is why we give thanks to the world of modern technology and to all the life saving masters in the medical profession that nurture our before-time babies with their knowledge, thus increasing the odds for their survival. Hospitals today are well equipped to deal with emergencies like early births. The welfare of the premature baby is first and foremost in all hospital maternity wards.The reasons given behind why a woman may go into labour earlier than anticipated are all health related factors e.g. smoking-poor diet-infections-twins-cervical ineptitude and other conditions that can be life threatening such as pre-eclampsia. All of these can speed up the process where premature baby births are likely.^

    My very own blog