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London ‘miracle baby’ who was born weighing less than a bag of sugar learnt to talk after eating Wotsits


A ‘miracle baby’ who weighed less than a small bag of sugar and couldn’t open her eyes when she was born now ‘bum-shuffles’ around, and even tells her parents stories.

When Hackney-based Elke Pettitt, 46, gave birth to a tiny baby girl at just 23 weeks into her pregnancy six years ago, Maija became one of only around 20-30% of babies to survive such an extremely premature birth.

Sadly, Maija’s twin, a boy born one week later, only lived for 30 days.

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To doctors, friends, family, and everyone else, Maija became the “miracle baby”, and at six years old, her development feels like a miracle to her family, who have watched her learn to eat and talk, never thinking she’d be able to do either.

Maija weighed just 470g when she was born

“She couldn’t even open her eyes when she was born,” said Maija’s mum Elke, who added, “she was so fragile and tiny, it’s just incredible how far she’s come.”

Elke and Maija’s dad Rawden were not able to take their daughter – who has quadriplegia, triple X syndrome and global developmental delay – home for over 90 days, after she was born in the Royal London Hospital then transferred to Homerton.

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Elke said as excited as they were about it, taking Maija home was “scary,” as she was still on oxygen, being tube-fed, and needed around ‘ten different medications’ a day.

Elke said for a long time she felt more like a nurse than a mum, and at the beginning, her daughter’s development was very slow.

At a loose end and after extensive research, when Maija was three and a half her parents decided to try out a ground-breaking therapy programme in Austria, ‘NoTube’, which proved to be life-changing for them all.

0 Maija with her older brother Till mum Elke and dad Rawden LR

Maija with her older brother Till, mum Elke and dad Rawden

“It’s really for children to explore food as a fun thing,” said Elke, who said over the “messy” two-week course Maija slowly started grabbing food, including purees and ice cream, then put it in her mouth, and months later she was even eating solids.

“She went through a phase where she just loved Wotsits,” laughed Elke, adding, “anything pureed, with Wotsits, I think it was that mushy texture as well as something crunchy and easy to dissolve in her mouth.”

Elke said they never thought Maija would speak, but since learning to eat her speech has come on in leaps and bounds, describing how when her daughter managed to say ‘mum’ for the first time, it was “just amazing.”

Before that, all Maija’s communication was non-verbal; Elke described how she used some sign language she had picked up while “watching Mr Tumble on the ipad.”

Now she will even make up stories to tell her parents when they ask her questions.

Maija has also recently learnt “to bum-shuffle”, and can even run with her school friends after children’s charity Children Today helped the family fundraise for a specialised ‘Race-Runner’ for her.

0 Maija loved the Race Runner when she trialled it LRJPG

Maija’s can now run and play with her friends for the first time ever using her ‘Race-Runner’

After her parents thought Maija would never be able to access mainstream education, she went to nursey and now goes out to a forest school in Hackney Marshes, where she loves being around the other children.

Elke said: “She’s just a really happy person… she’s developing so much and she’s got a really funny personality, and she’s very smiley… I think that just makes other people smile as well.”

She added: “because she’s so much joy, it has made this journey easier.

“There are all these little milestones that she achieves, and we feel that she is still learning and achieving even more, so who knows where it’s going to go.

“But she’s really happy and that’s just really nice.”

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