When little Clara Chetwynd was born, weighing 21b 4oz, her parents struggled to find any clothes to fit her.
Knowing how emotionally draining and stressful it was at the time, mother-of-two Alex Chetwynd, has Baby Steps, an online store selling babywear for premature babies.
The 20-year-old, from Chorley, says: “Our little girl, Clara, was born last May at 27 weeks. She was 13 weeks early and weighed just 2lb 4oz.
“I had her three days before my 19th birthday and it was a massive shock as she was so early. I was dragged into a world I didn’t know. It was so surreal and scary and there was not a lot of support out there. I felt I was treated differently because of my age, even though we had planned her.
“We were not told a lot in the early days, as at 27 weeks they could not guarantee survival. All they could do is tell you what they are doing there and then.
“But she didn’t have too many setbacks - she only had three blood transfusions, which is quite good as many premature babies have more.
“Now, at 18 months, Clara is doing fine and is very healthy. She has a hole in her heart that might require surgery at some point but it is not slowing her down. A lot of ex premature babies are in and out of hospital with coughs and colds but she doesn’t seem to be affected by these.”
Whilst looking for baby clothes, Alex was unable to find many outfits, which inspired her to make her own to sell to new parents.
She adds: “The biggest marketplace I found for premature clothing was Asda, but they only did from 3lb. For many premature babies, it is an achievement to reach 3lb.
“I make baby clothes from 1lb all the way to newborn.
“My initial idea was to design my own clothes but at the moment I am using UK suppliers to build up my customer base.
“The clothes on the market at the moment are very plain, because designers don’t think there is a call for it but there really is. I want to break that barrier and make fancier designs.”
Read more: Premature babies facing care postcode lottery and Bereaved parents’ fund-raising feat
Alex, who also has a seven-month daughter Sophie, undertook an enterprise course with the Prince’s Trust and worked with a business mentor to launch her business.
She adds: “I did art and design at school and was very creative but I never went to college or university, mainly because I had anxiety and depression.
“But now I have two beautiful daughters, I wanted to get something back for me and I also wanted to help other people who are in the same situation I was in.
“The best part is knowing I am helping parents and the fact I have been through it as well enables people to feel they can talk to me about what is going on. I can show there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Babies may be tiny, but they will get bigger and grow to be a healthy child. At the time you don’t feel like that, seeing wires on your child and hearing the beeping.”
“I am overwhelmed by the support I have had. I ran it through Facebook as a tester and The Prince’s Trust gave me £250 through its Will It Work Grant? to set the ideo in motion and get a customer base. As a result, I was able to apply for loans to develop it further.
“The page has been on Facebook for three months and I have nearly 1,000 likes. It is all through word of mouth from friends at the neonatal ward. I hope to promote my range in hospitals to let new parents know.”
Alex, who married her childhood sweetheart Ethan in June, is also launching a petition for more information to be given on premature babies.
She adds: “I gave birth to my daughter in May last year who was born suddenly at 27 weeks after full placenta abruption. We are both extremely lucky to still be alive after the occurrence of such a traumatic event.
“Before I gave birth to my daughter I was completely unaware of prematurity and the risks involved and it is because of this event that I am now doing everything in my power to raise awareness.
“At each midwifery appointment a pregnant woman will attend she will be given a multitude of leaflets and flyers of information that is essential to know throughout the pregnancy but despite all of this information, nothing raises awareness of prematurity.
“Knowing the symptoms and signs of early labour has the opportunity to save the lives of our country’s women and children with early medical intervention such as steroid injections being possible if symptoms are discovered early.
“After unexpectedly giving birth to my daughter at such a young gestation I feel it is my duty with your support, to act on this event and do everything I can to make this change possible to provide a better future for our country’s premature babies and their families.
“This issue is largely overlooked in today’s society and requires a large amount of attention.”
World Prematurity Day is November 17
A global movement to raise awareness of premature birth and the devastating impact it can have on families.
Baby charity Bliss has launched what #PrematurityIs, highlighting what it really means for babies when they are born too soon.
Its 2018 message:
#PrematurityIs more common than you think.
More than one in ten babies worldwide are born premature.
#PrematurityIs costing lives.
It is the leading cause of death in children under five around the world and here in the UK.
#PrematurityIs often unpredictable and in most cases, unexplained.
For babies it can mean the biggest fight of their lives and for family and friends it can leave them asking, why?
#PrematurityIs not what most parents expect when they are having a baby.
The emotional and financial burden of having a baby in neonatal care can be devastating.