When a baby is born, naturally it needs all the attention it could get from hospital staff and of course the parents. A lot is required to make sure the newborn is healthy, protected and loved. But different situations can happen.
The opioid and heroin addiction epidemic that is happening in various parts of the world is pretty heartbreaking. But what’s even more heartbreaking is the drug addicted babies who are born as a result. It’s difficult to even imagine.
Imagine a baby who just entered this world, already going through withdrawals from drugs. Not even being on earth for more than an hour, these babies already go through uncontrollable vomiting, extensive sweating, and diarrhea. This is the reality of thousands of babies.
Let us paint you a better picture: Once born, the child who is already hooked on drugs goes cold turkey once it takes its first breath.
Imagine being fed something for 9 months straight and having it taken away from you in an instant. It’s pretty difficult even for adults.
Once these innocent babies take their first breath, the symptoms of withdrawal shortly follow. These babies cry, shake, vomit, lose weight and have seizures.
This is all due to a hyperactive central nervous system that’s put into overdrive by a mother’s addiction.
But these newborns’ addiction is not completely hopeless. This all depends on the kind of drug that they are addicted to. Withdrawal symptoms can last 4-6 months.
Medication and time can definitely bring improvement. However, there is something else that is critical for a newborn in neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS): touch.
In fact, this tactic is proven so effective that more and more hospitals are looking for volunteers to hold and cuddle these babies.
According to the CDC, their bodies process and move past withdrawal with cuddles. The St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, Colorado is one example using this tactic.
There, up to six babies are going through opiate withdrawal at the same time. The rate is rising so fast that thousands of volunteers are being screened for the position.
A nurse at a hospital told a local news site: “It’s rare that we do not have at least one baby in our nursery withdrawing from heroin. They have a hard time.”
Good Housekeeping also quotes her saying “They have a hard time even when they’re being cuddled and held.” The hospital is still looking for more cuddles-givers.
They specifically need volunteers that are available overnight. The nurse also added that they need people who can be on-call so if the baby’s having a rough time, they can have someone there.
The criteria for the volunteers are pretty specific. In order to participate, candidates have to be 21, pass a background check, and receive a flu vaccine.
The participants are also required to take a tuberculosis test, understand confidentiality laws, attend an orientation and be ready to come in at a moment’s notice.
Sounds like a big check list. This is understandable when you are dealing with newborns. But there is one important thing that is required from the volunteers.
The volunteers must be able and willing to return the newborns to their mothers, without any judgment. These mothers are not intentionally trying to hurt their babies.