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At birth, Melinda Star Guido was so tiny she could fit into the palm of her doctor’s hand. Weighing just 9 1/2 ounces – less than a can of soda – she is among the smallest babies ever born in the world.

Most infants her size don’t survive, but doctors are preparing to send her home by New Year’s.

Melinda was born premature at 24 weeks in late August and is believed to be the second-smallest baby to survive in the U.S. and third smallest in the world. She spent the early months cocooned in an incubator in the neonatal intensive care unit in Los Angeles.

Despite hurdles, Melinda lived to her original Thursday due date. Doctors say it is too early to say how she will fare developmentally and physically when she grows up.

For now, her 22-year-old mother sits at her bedside almost every day and stays overnight whenever she can.

On Wednesday, Haydee Ibarra caressed Melinda through the portholes of the incubator where nurses pinned up a homemade sign bearing her name. Now 3 1/2 months old and weighing 4 pounds, Melinda gripped Ibarra’s pinky finger and yawned. Melinda was delivered by cesarean section at 24 weeks and was immediately transferred to the NICU where a team of doctors and nurses kept watch around the clock. Infants born before 37 weeks are considered premature.

Read:Minute Meditation:Prayer For Working Parents

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INSPIRING:The 2nd Smallest Baby In US Is Growing was originally published on elev8.com

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