Volunteers nationwide are lining up for what could be the most rewarding (and adorable) volunteer position available: cuddling brave newborn babies who are busy fighting for their lives.
With the climbing rates of drug addiction in the United States, an increasing number of babies are being born addicted to drugs. Interestingly enough, it also turns out that snuggles may be key to their healing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Neonatal abstinence syndrome (the diagnosis for babies born addicted to opioid drugs such as heroin, oxycontin, and morphine) has increased by a disturbing 383% in the past 18 years. When these babies are born addicted, they reportedly suffer “tremors, muscle spasms, shrill crying, irritability, sweating, indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting, poor sleeping and fevers”— all as a result of the opioids leaving their system.
Jane Cavanaugh, a nurse who created a “cuddle care program” in her home state of Pennsylvania, says snuggles are an effective way to soothe the mayhem occurring in these babies’ tortured, little bodies.
“These babies going through withdrawal need to be held for extended periods,” she says. “They need human touch. They need soothing. They need talking.”
Marie McLaughlin, chief nursing officer and vice president of Patient Care Services at Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC, agrees. She tells TODAY that cuddling drug-addicted babies is a great way to help them manage their symptoms.
“They are very irritable; they are hard to console. This is about swaddling them and giving them that comfort and safe secure feeling.”
Oftentimes, drug-addicted babies are born to loving mothers who are in the midst of recovery themselves. National Geographic explains that many mothers “didn’t misuse opioids during pregnancy but took methadone or buprenorphine, the frontline medications for treating opioid addiction.” In fact, methadone treatments are encouraged during pregnancy because they are safer than drug use or quitting cold turkey. Unfortunately, for the babies, the end result is still the same.
Cuddling and skin-to-skin contact has been promoted in many hospitals in recent years. According to research, it helps maintain temperature better than an incubator, can stabilize heart rate, breathing, and blood sugar better than most modern tools, and can even relieve pain.
While cuddling is important for every baby’s development, the trauma experienced by drug-addicted babies makes skin-to-skin contact that much more important.
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If cuddling babies sounds like the perfect volunteer position for you, please get in touch with your local hospital for more information on how you can help these brave newborns in need.
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