It is a known fact that mothers hooked on opioids will cause addiction in their babies as well. Across the nation, babies with opioid withdrawal are born every 15 minutes, as per the National Institute of Drug Abuse. It is without a doubt that babies born in such a state are extra vulnerable and in pain.
In fact, many of these babies end up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which admits opioid-addicted babies.
Baby cuddlers come to the rescue!
Now, to help comfort these babies are so-called ‘baby cuddlers’ who volunteer and give these babies a new start at life. With that, the babies also connect with other people and develop properly. Some of the places which are already carrying out the programs are Virginia, Iowa, Massachusetts and San Antonio.
One of the volunteers is Doug Walters, who is an Army Veteran. The veteran is still volunteering, three years later. Babies in withdrawal often have tense muscles, overall body tightness, poor reflexes, tremors, and even seizures. On top of that, infants also experience gastrointestinal issues and cannot breathe properly when fed. The babies in the withdrawal stage often squeak loudly, as a sign of a cry.
‘You can tell when kids cry because they’re mad, or they’re hungry. When babies with NAS cry, it ’s just… A very sad cry,” he said. “They don’t understand what’s happening, and they don’t understand why things hurt,’ says Doug.
An Effective Touch Program
Another example at the same institution is Laurie Weaver, who spend 27 years working with babies with NAS.
As she explains, the babies have been ‘given a rough start, and I just like holding them and comforting them.’
‘Touch is so important for babies,’ notes Vicki Agnitsch, who used to be a nurse at the Blank Children’s Hospital. The Des Moines nurse elaborates,
‘Without that, there would be a failure to thrive. When they know someone else is touching them, it gives them that warmth and safety and security that they crave. They had that inside the mom, and then they come out into this cold, bright world. They don’t have that, so all of that swaddling, touch, and talk helps their development.’
The simple act of spending a few hours with newborns can improve and their well-being at a pivotal Even a few hours a day count as far as healing these babies is concerned. To Vicki, the Cuddler Volunteer program represents ‘the best part of my week.’
It’s Catching On!
Over at Va.’s Fauquier Hospital, there is a similar program that gives babies with NAS hope. As per Cheryl Poelma, a director of women services, diagnosed babies get a dose of morphine some time after their birth. As she states, this helps babies cope with withdrawal urges.
‘They aren’t coordinated with their suck, they can’t eat well, they may sneeze a lot, have loose stools — it’s all part of withdrawing,’ she explains. For that, the hospital uses both a cuddlers’ program and administration of morphine. ‘They sit, and rock the infants, holding them tight,’ she concludes. ‘They tend to like to have their hands close to their chests, they like a tight blanket swaddled around them. They also like to suck on pacifiers, so it’s rocking, sucking, keeping them in a quiet environment, reducing stimuli.’
With that, Cheryl notes the results arrive after just a couple of weeks. ‘You’ll see them engaging you more, their eye contact will be better, they’ll start feeling better, not being so fussy, and they’ll start to sleep better,’ she acknowledged.
Stepping up to the plate is heroic, to say the least. But for these babies, it is even more than that. It is a chance to approach life in a brighter and healthier manner.