This medical video looks into how premature babies may benefit from a caffeine jolt.
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Jennifer Matthews: At just 4 weeks old, Ashlyn has a lot of growing up to do. Born two months early, she weighed a little more than 4 pounds. Julie Dinatale: She didn't know that she really wasn't ready, but she thought she was ready. Jennifer Matthews: Unfortunately, the baby's body wasn't. Julie Dinatale: She was just premature and her central nervous system and her lungs needed to work and grow. Jennifer Matthews: Ashlyn developed apnea of prematurity, which is when a baby simply forgets to breathe on her own. Dr. Allen Erenberg says it's common in low-birthweight babies. Dr. Allen Erenberg: Below 1,000 grams, which is a little over 2 pounds, it's over 80 percent of the babies who will have it. It potentially can be life-threatening. Jennifer Matthews: Now, doctors have an unusual way to fix the problem: caffeine. Dr. Allen Erenberg: It helps the center of the brain stem that controls respirations to become more sensitive. Jennifer Matthews: A study of 87 infants showed that more than 70 percent who received caffeine had their apnea spells reduced by 50 percent or more. Caffeine was just what the doctor ordered for Ashlyn. Julie Dinatale: That took I think from 17 apneas to five in just one dose, and then in the evening she was down to just a couple overnight. Jennifer Matthews: The treatment surprised Julie. Julie Dinatale: I didn't drink any caffeine when I was pregnant, and then she was getting it via IV. Jennifer Matthews: Now, 3 weeks older and 4 ounces heavier, Ashlyn is on her way to a healthy life. Julie Dinatale: We're very lucky that she's as healthy as she is. Jennifer Matthews: This is Jennifer Matthews reporting.