Little Elsie Dutton had a difficult start to life, born premature at just 23 weeks and weighing 1lb, 4oz at birth. While doctors initially weren’t sure she was going to survive, they soon realized that her mother’s snuggles — known as ‘kangaroo care’ — were a crucial component of the little girl’s well-being.
Elsie’s mom, Amy Dutton, told the Mirror that after birth, she was able to hold Elsie for just 10 seconds before the little girl was whisked away to an incubator. Then, when she was 10 days old, Elsie had surgery to repair a hole in her bowel. Dutton explained that after a month in the incubator, doctors suggested that she start cradling little Elsie skin-to-skin time against her body for three to four hours a day, noting that studies have shown that this type of kangaroo care has notable benefits to babies. This proved to be true for Elsie.
“The first time I held Elsie properly was amazing, I’ve never known anything like it,” Dutton said. “There’s no other feeling in the world that compares. I’d hold her and I could see on all the monitors her heart rate was relaxing.
“It’s crazy to think that me cuddling her was having such an impact – it saved her life. It was good for me too, because being able to hold her also helped bring down my stress levels.”
Dr. Sijo Francis of St. George’s Hospital in London told the Daily Mail that the kangaroo care made a huge difference for Elsie. “When babies like Elsie are born prematurely, clinical intervention is key but parent’s involvement also has a hugely positive effect,” he said. “When mothers hold their babies in their arms for a long time, as they do with kangaroo care, stress for both mother and baby is reduced and we see improved short- and long-term outcomes.”
Sadly, during this time the family was also dealing with the loss of Elsie’s twin, Dotty. The two had been experiencing twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, which causes one sibling to receive all the nutrients. If left untreated, the condition can be fatal for one or both babies. Doctors attempted surgery, but unfortunately, it was not successful. Dotty passed away and Elsie was born premature.
“Losing Dotty was really difficult,” Dutton said, noting that because the age of viability in Britain is considered 24 weeks, her passing was simply noted as a ‘miscarriage’ — despite the fact that her twin survived after being born at the same age. “Because it was before 24 weeks, I was never able to register her as a stillborn… she was classed as a miscarriage. That meant I wasn’t able to put on Elsie’s birth certificate that she was a twin either.”
“Being able to have that on the paperwork would have given me some closure after going through something so difficult. We managed to get a commemorative certificate for her, and her ashes, which was really helpful for the grieving process. Her funeral was paid for by the First Touch charity. It was a really important day for us.”
After four months in the hospital, little Elsie has pulled through and was recently able to head home for the first time. “Bringing her home for the first time was honestly amazing. I almost didn’t think it was real – the day felt like a dream come true,” Dutton said. “I’ve never felt such a relief as when we got to walk out of the hospital and take Elsie home. It’s so surreal to hold your baby and think about how you could have lost her. Having her home after all that uncertainty was just bliss.”