Octuplets continue to make good progress

The second set of live-born octuplets in the US were all breathing on their own, 48 hours after a woman gave birth to them in Southern California.

Three of the babies were still receiving oxygen through a tube in their nose, but they were inhaling and exhaling on their own, the hospital said. All the newborns were expected to have the tubes removed soon.

"They're doing amazingly well," said Socorro Serrano, spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente's Bellflower Medical Centre, where the babies were born nine weeks premature.

The mother, whose identity remains a secret, had not yet been able to hold any of the delicate babies - six boys and two girls - who were born weighing between 1lb 8oz and 3lb 4oz.

However, she was able to see them in their incubators on Tuesday night.

In lieu of names, the babies have been assigned letters A through H, in the order of their birth on Monday morning.

The babies' incubators were being kept near one another in the same room for bonding, said Miriam Khoury, clinical director of inpatient obstetrical nursing at the hospital.

Four of the babies were receiving tube-feedings of donated breast milk, said Ms Khoury.

The stomach of Baby F didn't absorb the first feeding he was given yesterday and it was stopped, said Ms Khoury.

All babies were being given total parental nutrition feedings, or TPN, which deliver fluid, electrolytes, calories, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fats into an infant's vein. Such supplements are routine for premature babies.

Doctors were surprised by the birth of the eighth baby, because they were only anticipating seven, said Dr Harold Henry, one of 46 staff members who delivered the babies by caesarean section.

Ms Khoury said the addition of eight babies to the neonatal unit had not stressed the hospital.

"This is history for us, so of course we're happy," said Ms Khoury, who helped coordinate the materials needed for the labour.

Details about how the octuplets were conceived have not been released, but doctors not involved in the delivery believe the mother was likely on fertility treatment.

Dr Daniel Mishell, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, recommends carefully monitoring pregnancies involving fertility drugs by ultrasound.

Multiple births can be dangerous for babies and their mother, and in some cases may result in lasting health problems. However, in cases where a woman insists on having multiple births, there's a limit to a doctor's role.

"You can't mandate a reduction of pregnancies," Dr Mishell said. "You can advise them, but you can't mandate them."

The babies were expected to remain in hospital for several weeks and could face serious developmental delays because of their small size.

The nation's first live-birth octuplets were born three months premature in Houston in 1998.

The tiniest baby, who was born at 10.3oz, died of heart and lung failure a week after being born. The others survived.

Mother Nkem Chukwu and father Iyke Louis Udobi had used fertility drugs in the pregnancy.

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