Small Baby Program is helping improve outcomes for the smallest babies

Weighing just a pound-and-a-half and stretching the length of a ruler, micro-preemie Teigen shocked her mother by making an early entrance at 23 weeks old at Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Ascension Sacred Heart last year.

Kenyattee Lynn was barely past the halfway mark in her pregnancy when she suddenly had a tiny newborn she was learning to care for in a way that’s not taught in the typical birthing classes. She was navigating new motherhood through a tangle of cords and tubes that were her baby girl’s lifeline as Teigen grew and got stronger right before her mother’s eyes. “I remember just thinking, ‘she’s so tiny,’” Kenyattee recalled.

A couple of weeks before Teigen’s birth, Kenyattee said she started showing signs of preterm labor. Her care team at Ascension Sacred Heart quickly slowed things down, and she was put on bed rest. A few hours before Teigen was born, Kenyattee was feeling pain and cramping. 

Neonatal-perinatal doctor Giang Sinh Truong, MD, said our obstetricians always try to delay delivery as long as possible; however, under certain circumstances, the baby has to be delivered so prematurely for the safety of the baby, mother or both. Some examples include imminent premature labor, high blood pressure during pregnancy (preeclampsia), and a variant of preeclampsia that causes organ damage, or placental complications.

“Evidence supports that standardized care improves outcomes,” she explained. “Our interdisciplinary NICU team of obstetricians and staff, maternal-fetal medicine specialists, board-certified neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses and therapists use an evidence-based approach to develop protocols and guidelines to care for very premature infants.“ 

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Studer Family Children’s Hospital became Kenyattee’s home away from home for almost four entire months. Kenyattee says through each milestone and setback, the nurses and doctors made sure she was fully informed and understood what was happening. “They broke everything down for us,” she recalls. “Every doctor would ask if we knew what this meant, and if we didn’t, they’d explain it to us as much as possible so we could understand.” 

Most premature babies develop language and motor skills in the same way as full-term babies, but some may experience developmental delays. To ensure infants continue to thrive and meet their best potential after they leave the hospital, we connect families with a network of 30 pediatric subspecialists and community support services. 

Kenyattee said her care team connected her with specialists. Baby Teigen had laser eye surgery in early April to treat her retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and has regularly scheduled appointments with her pulmonologist since she is currently home on oxygen support. 

As for other moms in a similar situation, Kenyattee said it’s important for them to make sure they take care of themselves during this difficult time. Your baby is well taken care of. It’s okay to worry but don’t be hard on yourself. Take time for yourself, too.

From celebrating Christmas to ringing in the new year to all the love that comes with Valentine’s Day, baby Teigen experienced a handful of holidays in the NICU. Her biggest celebration came when she wore a graduation cap and gown and passed down the hall lined with the nurses who cared for her for 117 days and she got to head home! 

“My care was a 10 out of 10,” Kenyattee says. “I highly recommend Studer Family Children’s Hospital. Even though this was not the birth story I envisioned, the staff made sure my experience there was great.”

To learn about maternity care at Ascension Sacred Heart, visit