Inside look at NICU as NY premature birth rate drops

SYRACUSE -- The premature birth rate in New York is dropping, according to the State Health Department.

State health officials report 12.2% of babies were born before 37 weeks in 2009. That dropped to 10.9% in 2011. The U.S. average is 11.7%.

At Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, approximately 900 premature babies and seriously ill infants are treated in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.

Oliver Piper, born 25 weeks early, is one of those infants. He weight just 760 grams at birth. His parents, currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House, visit their son in shifts to monitor his progress. This week, his food intake has increased from 3mL to 10mL.

At another end of the N-I-C-U, mother Irene Williams cradles her daughter, Ilara, born on Christmas Day at only 27 weeks old. Irene vists Ilara every other day. Her husband serves overseas in the military. She is hopeful Ilara will be able to take to a bottle in about four weeks.

Dr. Michelle Bode, a neonatologist at Crouse Hospital, explained that seeing a decrease in the premature birth rate is related to attitude. "No more 'Just do a C-section because it's convenient,'" said Dr. Bode. "No more 'Deliver the baby because Mom says I'm tired.' Really thinking about what it means for that baby and its future."

These changing attitudes may help to continue to keep premature births lower in New York.