Little Braelyn arrived at 4:52 a.m. at Sinai Hospital. He’s got 10 perfect fingers and toes, several doting family members and one more special claim — a leap year birthday.

He was one of three born at the hospital in North Baltimore by midday this Feb. 29, and among many more in the region.

Braelyn arrived two weeks early, and when his mother Keyona arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night and was about to deliver, “I definitely thought about it,” she said of the leap day birthday that will be officially marked but once every four years.

Baby Braelyn born to mother Keyona in the early morning hours of February 29, 2024 at Sinai Hospital.
Baby Braelyn was born to mother Keyona in the early morning hours of Feb. 29, 2024, at Sinai Hospital. (Kaitlin Newman/The Baltimore Banner)

The family will pick an annual day to celebrate, said Keyona, who asked that her last name be withheld for security of her newborn. That may be Feb. 28, March 1 or whenever. There are no rules.

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Called leapers or leaplings, or just plain leap day babies, today’s newborns join a rather exclusive club that may make them feel special, different and — as they grow and navigate life — occasionally annoyed.

There are more than a few leap babies coming into the world, being dressed in special onesies and fussed over by parents, doctors and hospital staff across the state and country. Sinai’s labor and delivery unit plays a little nursery rhyme on the intercom whenever a newborn arrives.

There were 68,266 live births recorded in Maryland in 2021, according to the latest vital statistics on the Maryland Department of Health website. That wasn’t a leap year, so that works out to about 187 babies a day. There are about 5 million leaplings alive around the world, according to the Associated Press. The odds of being born on this day are 1 in 1,461.

Baby Ava was born Feb. 29, 2024, to parents Tijah Brown and Jamal McCullough at University of Maryland Medical Center. (Kaitlin Newman)

Others born on this day are motivational speaker Tony Robbins and the rapper Ja Rule, according to the Honor Society of Leap Year Day Babies — a club you definitely have to be born into.

And various authorities say you can choose to celebrate your birthday before or after, though your official documents must list the actual day of your birth, and that’s likely to be an issue on some forms that do not make the day a choice.

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Tijah Brown and Jamal McCullough, who welcomed baby Ava around 11 a.m. today, say they’ll celebrate her birthday on March 1. McCullough’s birthday is March 2, and he has another daughter with a March 4 birthday.

McCullough said Ava, who was born at the University of Maryland Medical Center, didn’t need to be a leap day baby to be special.

“She’s a special baby, she will do special things in life, believe that,” he said. “I’m grateful to be her dad, her protector.”

Tijah Brown holds baby Ava as Jamal McCullough looks on at University of Maryland Medical Center. (Kaitlin Newman)

Baby Realyn, also born this morning at the medical center, will celebrate Feb. 29 since there are a lot of family birthdays in February, said her mom, Deniya Cross.

Leap day exists because it takes slightly longer for Earth to travel around the sun each year than the 365 days in the Gregorian calendar we all use. It’s more like 365.2422 days. Adding the extra day, or week, keeps the seasons in sync.

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A pair of Johns Hopkins University professors once tried to get the powers that be to adopt a new calendar that would eliminate the need for leap day by adding an extra week every five or six years.

The Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar, named for the professors, appears to have as much chance as the metric system in getting adopted to replace the Gregorian calendar, named for Pope Gregory, who campaigned in 1582 to replace the Julius Caesar calendar with his own.

Baby Realyn was born Feb. 29, 2024, at University of Maryland Medical Center. Her mom, Deniya Cross, said the family has lots of February birthdays. (Kaitlin Newman)

As for Braelyn, his once-every-four-years birthday will not mean less attention. His 2-year-old sister has already declared him “my baby,” said Keyona as she gently stroked his tiny foot.

“I’ll learn how to explain it to him,” she said.

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