According to The National Institute of Drug Abuse more babies nowadays, have been born with withdrawal symptoms related to their mothers’ opioid addictions. These babies suffer in pain before they experience anything else, so the hospitals help them to overcome these often painful symptoms during their first weeks by recruiting volunteers just to cuddle them. However, the number of those babies is very high so there are not enough baby cuddlers.
These volunteers give the needed love and affection to these babies helping them to sleep. This program is becoming a part-time job in Iowa, San Antonio, Virginia, and Massachusetts.
Among the first to volunteer and has been a part-time baby cuddler for over three years now was Doug Walters, an Army Veteran. He explains that it is very, very sad, since the babies don’t understand what’s happening, and they don’t understand why things hurt.
According to the nurse Laurie Weaver, who has worked in the NICU – hospital for 27 years, there are three to four hundred born with that syndrome annually in Bexar County. She added that the human touch is so vital to these babies’ recovery. The babies assigned to the hospital need to be fed every three hours, so the personnel doesn’t always have time to hold them.
Dr. Meredith Flores, a pediatrician who takes care of babies in the NICU at the hospital, supports that method of babies’ recovery, as she found that babies with NAS who are held and cuddled do much better. The results that she noticed were in a big advance for those babies that either the mom, or a volunteer, or someone is there holding them all day. Those babies need a lower dose of the medication they require, and they are able to wean faster off of that dose.
According to Vicki Agnitsch, a former nurse who is a part of the Cuddler Volunteer program at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, the touch is extremely important for those babies, and without it, there would be a failure to thrive. She added that when the babies know that someone touches them they feel safety and warmth that they crave for. It actually happens inside their mother, and losing it when they came to this world affected them significantly.
Cheryl Poelma, director of women Va.’s Fauquier Hospital, supporting this program too says that these babies are not coordinated with their suck, and they cannot eat well, so they have loose stools, may sneeze a lot, and this is all part of withdrawing.
The responsibility of the volunteers is to sit and rock the infants, holding them tight. Because they keep their hands close to their chests and like to suck on pacifiers, the stimuli are reduced due to the sucking, rocking, and keeping them in a quiet environment.
After a few weeks of treating them, the infants show the first signs of improvements, which is noticed in the enhancement of the eye contact, they feed better and start to sleep better.
For all volunteers who want to join this program, here is a list of some other hospitals where they can offer their services:
• The Boston Medical Center – a program called CALM – Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and Infant Stress.
• The Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, in Philadelphia – a four-hour training course for cuddler volunteers.
• Lily’s Place
• The Woman’s Hospital of Texas
• Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh
• Miller Children’s Hospital
• The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Centre
• University of Chicago Medicine