A major study of nearly 100 newborns has revealed that 24 babies born via Caesarean section were never quite big enough to get enough nourishment.

The results – from Ireland’s largest randomised screening study of Irish newborns – are an important advance in the way research around the country is conducted.

These findings are published by the Newborn Screening Unit of the National University Hospital Tallaght in the journal BMJ Open.

The unit is co-funded by Kildare Cancer orchid, which has a healthy turnover of about 12,000 UK and Ireland residents. The unit was set up to study the survival of 34 severe cases of paediatric bi-lingual deafness, head and neck cancer and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).The Children of the 80s study analysed more than 1,000 children born from 2010 to 2016. The study found that less than a fifth of them ever had the smallest ability to haul themselves up from their bile vessels (called lumps) was good enough for them to eat, drink and breathe normally.”Twenty-one babies (4%) were very small; none of these small babies ever ‘got over it’ to actually eat; five babies (3%) had large lumps. Most had problems with ‘maybe-smaller’ babies, people who had been conceived at an early stage (usually between 12-14 weeks), but none did ‘got over it’.”The exception was one baby with a very large brain tumour, which was able to ‘get over it’.”Children of the 80s is a unique opportunity to screen a large number of severely ill families in a systematic fashion, thus providing a unique opportunity to explore which children have potential to be able to live independently for a significant period of time,” commented the study’s principal investigator, Thomas K. O’Brien, from the Children of the 80s study.

He said that not ‘smoking guns’ of reduced survival among these babies were identified. However, these findings nonetheless provide “plenty of grounds for optimism” that the vast majority of children with a reduced survival rate have a normal, fulfilling childhood.

He emphasised that this study can “indicate the value of screening” although early on “many institutions” – including the National Children’s Hospital in Cork – are currently screening the very small proportion of patients who have already arrived at term and are symptomatic of already diagnosed children with milestones such as low weight in the womb and asthma, among others.

The Women’s Health Alliance agreed to test for low seizure threshold anomalies in all UK newborns and Ireland’s immunological comfort level is being monitored.

The Rama Foundation, Israel’s largest charity, has been running a trial of twin babies which is due to start later this month.

Meanwhile, other trials involving Rama’s Twin Children’s Hospital are looking at the effect of sugar-sweetened drinks. The trial will watch babies born to mothers who consumed three times the recommended amount a day for 12 months, while mothers who started three times the normal intake did not.

It will also test whether consuming six times the recommended amount of sugary drinks is as damaging to newborns as consuming just one sugary glass a day.

In late March, the HSE announced that it would encourage participating mothers to reduce their sugar intake in order to ensure their babies are not overweight.