Fighting for Life

By Brandi Bailey

November 16, 2012 Updated Nov 16, 2012 at 7:23 PM EDT

Johnson City, NY (WBNG Binghamton) November is Prematurity Awareness Month, a month focused on raising awareness to fight for the lives of Premature Babies.

More than half a million infants are born prematurely each year in the United States, many of which are born between 34 and 36 weeks.

The United Health Services' Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU works closely with Mothers and Babies Perinatal Network and the March of Dimes to help decrease the number of premature babies.

Preemies born in the U.S. are at a higher risk of infant mortality than other developed countries because of the preterm delivery and low birth rate.

The mother of a now healthy toddler, Heather Howard was told she would deliver her son at 30 weeks.

"Blake spent 63 days in the NICU. Which means I left him for 62 nights to be cared for by someone other than me. I did not get the bonding experience many mother's take for granted," said Howard.

Like many parents of preemies, Howard and her husband didn't hold Blake until he was nearly 1 week old.

According to the UHS NICU, babies taken to the NICU are often hooked up to oxygen tanks, feeding tubes, and heart monitors.

This often times prevents contact with their parents and families for days.