Did you know? The amount of babies born addicted to opioids in the United States has tripled in the past 15 years, according to the CDC. Whether the mother took prescription pharmaceuticals for her own health or abused her and the baby’s body out of ignorance, it doesn’t change the fact that after birth, a drug-addicted infant needs plenty of treatment — including cuddling — to heal. Fortunately, it is now possible to snuggle babies as a volunteer in Neonatal Infant Care Units (NICUs) all across the U.S.
Cuddling might seem like an odd prescription for healing, but it’s proven to aid neonatal abstinence syndrome, which is basically when a child inherits the mother’s addiction while in the womb. The process of withdrawal, as you might know, is oftentimes excruciating. Sometimes, the comfort provided by a loving presence is the answer to saving a baby’s life.
Because neonatal abstinence syndrome is on the rise in the country, programs such as this one are popping up at a rapid pace! Nurses are oftentimes overwhelmed by all the infants that need attention and care, so volunteers are graciously welcomed.
Jane Cavanuagh, a nurse in Pennsylvania, can be credited with helping to launch a volunteer program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Dismayed that so many babies are being born addicted to opioids, she petitioned the hospital to start a volunteer program that allows people to cuddle the affected babies. “These babies going through withdrawal need to be held for extended periods,” Cavanuagh explained. “They need human touch.”
As Wimp reports, Maribeth McLaughlin, chief nursing officer and vice president of Patient Care Services at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh, wholeheartedly agrees. She, as well, oversees at-risk babies who can’t soothe themselves.
According to both women, having volunteers cuddle drug-addicted infants works wonders. On average, babies in withdrawal who are held require less medication. Additionally, they tend to go home sooner than those who aren’t cuddled. Said McLaughlin, “[Cuddling] is helping them manage through these symptoms. They are very irritable; they are hard to console. This is about swaddling them and giving them that comfort and safe, secure feeling.”
If you’re the type of individual who adores babies and seeks to better the lives of those who are new to the planet, do a Google search to find hospitals or infant care units in your local area that offer a cuddle program. If one doesn’t exist, perhaps “be the change you want to see” and try to launch one!